South of the Border Cuisine for Cinco de Mayo

Delicious Mexican cuisine helps make any meal feel like a fiesta. This week, however, we are focusing on a specific cause to celebrate — the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo. On May 5, 1862, Mexican soldiers won a pivotal battle and they’ve been honoring the day ever since.

Tyler’s Guacamole is a perfect example of a healthy food that tastes decadent. Tyler has spent years perfecting his cooking skills and enjoyed countless trips to Mexico to taste authentic cuisine. This now benefits you since he’s generously sharing his avocado secrets.

You may double-check your kitchen for a gourmet chef after making my Fiesta Enchiladas. The recipe is inspired by traditional Mexican enchiladas, but with a bit of American convenience. You can make six large or 12 small enchiladas, but keep in mind that this dish is so delicious you might want to accommodate guests wanting second servings.

Balance out the tangy and spicy flavors of the previous two dishes with the rich sweetness of Mexican Hot Cocoa. The Aztec and Mayan chocolate included spicy peppers to balance the flavors. Traditionally, the cocoa and other ingredients are used to create a paste, but my recipe has everything warming up on the stovetop with the milk included. It smells so good and offers instant gratification!

I lost count of the number of tortilla chips I ate in the process of developing and testing these recipes back in 2005 when I originally developed these recipes with my friend Tyler’s help. This was for my weekly cooking column in the West Virginia newspaper, New Mountain Tribune. Celebrate Mexican history and cuisine every day with these sweet, spicy south of the border treats.

Guacamole with the Stone

Tips & Tricks

Leave the avocado pit in with the mashed avocado or guacamole to keep it from turning brown.

 

Quick Guacamole

Tyler’s Guacamole

3 ripe Haas avocados (not brown)

3 limes, juiced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 Roma or vine-ripened tomato, diced

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped white onion

1 serano pepper

tortilla chips (for dipping)

1. Cut around the avocado completely, but not cutting through it. Separate the two sides and remove the pit from the center. Scoop out the avocado meat, but avoid the bruised or brown spots. Place it in a medium-sized bowl. Continue with all avocados until done.

2. Roll each lime back and forth against the counter or cutting board a few times. Cut in half and squeeze the juice on to the avocado meat. This will keep it from turning brown at its usual speed.

3. Add the cilantro to the bowl.

4. Cut the serano pepper lengthwise in half. Remove the seeds and continue to slice it in strips. Then chop the strips finely. Remember, when cooking with hot peppers, it is important to wash your hands frequently and not to touch your eyes. As spicy as the peppers feel in your mouth, they are even hotter if they come in contact with your eyes.

5. Dice the tomato finely and add it to the bowl. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the ingredients in the bowl.

6. Stir in the chopped onion with a fork. Gently, but decidedly, blend the ingredients. Press the avocado against the side of the bowl to mash some of the pieces. The end result should be smooth, but with a varied texture that includes some avocado chunks.

7. Serve with tortilla chips alongside the Evin’s Enchiladas.

Fiesta Enchiladas

Evin’s Enchiladas

Chicken:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons ounces green taco sauce (or substitute with a puree of tomatillos/tomatoes, cilantro leaves, and chicken broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Enchilada Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced white onion
  • 1 teaspoon roasted garlic
  • 3/4 cup tomato paste (1 6-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup red non-chunky salsa (or make your own)
  • 12 ounces chicken broth

Enchilada Assembly and Serving:

  • 6 large round soft flour tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar or Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons green scallions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 6 to 10 ounces sour cream (the spicier the salsa used the more sour cream needed)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a deep oven-safe dish, place the four chicken breasts. In a small bowl, blend the lime juice with the taco sauce, garlic salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture over the chicken breasts and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour.

3. While the chicken is cooking, the sauce will be prepared. The sauce can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 4 months (boil after defrost to regain texture). In a 6-inch deep skillet, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and salsa. Mix the ingredients together and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the chicken broth. Whisk the ingredients together. Simmer for 15 minutes as it thickens slightly. It should still have a fluid consistency though. Remove from heat and reserve all but 2 tablespoons in a thermos or jar until ready for use.

4. Remove the chicken from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature from 325 to 300 degrees. Place the chicken breasts only (not the juice) in a bowl or dish. Use a large whisk to shred the meat. Place the meat in the skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sauce and stir to coat the chicken.

5. Warm the tortillas in the oven for 5 minutes. Once slightly warmed, place a portion of the chicken in the tortilla and fold over. Place the enchilada in a square or rectangular oven-safe baking dish and repeat the process until all the ingredients have been used.

6. Pour half of the reserved red sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle the cheese over top. Bake for 15 minutes. Pull the dish out briefly to sprinkle the scallions and cilantro on the enchiladas. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven. To balance the dish’s spicy flavors, serve topped with sour cream and alongside Tyler’s Guacamole. Leftovers are delicious if refrigerated in an air-tight container up to 2 days. To reheat, bake enchiladas at 300 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Mexican Hot Cocoa

2 1/2 ounces pieces of bittersweet or baker’s cocoa, preferably Mexican cocoa

16 ounces whole milk (skim works too, but isn’t as rich in flavor)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

pinch of cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons vanilla sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar or natural sugar (also known as sugar in the raw”)

1 drop vanilla extract

cinnamon sticks, for stirring

1. Over medium heat, warm a saucepan. Once the pan begins to take on heat, place the cocoa pieces in the bottom to melt. After about 20 seconds, pour the milk into the pan. Stir until the pieces melt and the milk takes on a chocolate hue. Let the mixture heat for 2 minutes, then reduce the temperature to low to low-medium for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Sprinkle in the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and sugars. Stir the mixture with a whisk and add the vanilla extract. Once the cocoa beverage has been heated to the right level of warmth, remove it from the heat.

3. Pour the hot cocoa into individual mugs and serve with cinnamon stick stirrers.

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