Cinco de Mayo: Menu Essentials


Panning Sydney for the best tequila and lemon combo. (Photo credit: Ian Llyod Neubauer/CNNGo)

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By Eatocracy Editors, CNN

(CNN) — There’s no time for a siesta; Saturday is the big fiesta!

Kick off your Cinco de Mayo in style with Chef Josh Gentry of the Little Donkey restaurant in Homewood, Alabama.

Five Dishes and Cocktails You Need to Have at Your Fiesta: Josh Gentry

1. Stock up

“First, having a six-pack of Tecate and key limes to go with it is vital to getting geared up for the party! This doesn’t need to be viewed as your beverage for the day, it’s really just hydration. The key limes are essential because they are so much more tart and refreshing than Persian limes. Make sure the beer stays on ice because when the craving for a hot tamale hits, an ice-cold beer with a shot of lime is the perfect refresher. Or, it may just end up being a chaser for some good tequila later.

While you’re getting your bar in order for the party, make sure the margaritas are also ready for high consumption. The main thing about the margarita is keeping your eye on three simple ingredients: great tequila, fresh lime juice and orange. I like to get the orange flavor from Agavero, an agave liqueur that has the fragrance of bottled orange blossoms.

Bottom line, margaritas are best in their classic preparation, so don’t mess with it because everyone at the party will slam at least two.

If you do want a tequila-based drink that is outside the norm of a classic margarita, try a paloma. Good tequila, fresh lime juice and some grapefruit soda is all you need – and the result is completely refrescante!”

2. Cool down

“Sometimes it’s easy to forget when you’re having an epic party, but there are other ways to chill out than ice-cold beer and tequila. Popsicles are totally on the sweet side of Mexican street food and are also super refreshing. They are also a super cool way to enjoy a mix and match of fun flavors.

Jalapeño and watermelon or habanero and raspberry are a couple of ways to bring sweet and spicy flavors together in a fun way. It’s also really easy to make popsicles at home for a party.”

3. Lend me your ears

“When planning your menu, think street food. One of the quintessential foods you’ll find on the street in Mexico is elote: Corn on the cob that has been rubbed with mayonnaise, seasoned with a chili powder and covered in grated cotija cheese. It is one of the great treats of Mexico and a perfect snack during the cerveza- and tequila-charged festivities.”

4. Be the top dog

“Hot Dogs! Going into the Mexican markets and getting a Cuban-style torta with sliced hot dogs on it is kind of a cool way to enjoy hot dogs. And here in America, hot dogs are obviously staples of our grilling feasts and holiday celebrations.

Sear a hot dog in a cast iron pan over the fire and reinvent an American classic with some smoked habanero sauce, a touch of mayo, ancho chili powder and chopped tomatoes piled up in a soft bun. It is a great coming together of two fine food cultures.”

5. Good golly, hot tamale!

“Tamales, probably more than any other Mexican staple, signify a party or a special occasion. There are so many ways to enjoy tamales. Mexicans enjoy them with sweet and savory fillings alike. Here in the South, we really relate to them because the combination of cornbread (or masa) and slow-cooked meats speaks to folks from all walks of life.

Even when it’s not Cinco de Mayo, a platter full of tamales and a cooler full of beer becomes an immediate gathering place. It’s almost a mental trigger to slow down, relax and enjoy letting time pass. If that’s not what a party like Cinco de Mayo is all about, then I don’t know what is.

Or, there’s always queso fundido. Please be careful as it may fulfill your caloric needs for a week, but it’s simple and completely worth the effort.”

Queso Fundido


8 oz poblano chiles, roasted

8 oz white onion, roasted

2 cloves garlic, roasted

1 tsp Mexican oregano

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 lb smoked chorizo, chopped

1 lb semi-hard cheese, like cotija, fontina or asiago

1 lb soft cheese, like mozzarella or Oaxaca

Cooking Directions

Roast the poblanos by placing directly on the grill until charred. Let the peppers steam in a bowl covered with plastic to help the skin release itself from the goodness. Peel them and remove the stems and seeds. Roast the onions by nestling them down in the coals on the same grill. This should take 20-30 minutes and the outside will be black or charred, but the inside will be very moist. Dry roast the garlic on the grill until it is scorched and a deep rich brown color on the side against the fire. The center should still be its natural color, though.

When both vegetables are roasted and cool enough to touch, peel them into pieces about the size of a silver dollar. Place the pieces of onion and poblano in a bowl and toss with the oregano, garlic and salt. In a ceramic, glass or ceramic baking dish, place the chorizo evenly across the bottom of the dish. Then, cover the sausage with the poblano/onion mixture and spread the cheese on top. Place the dish in an oven on broil for approximately 6 minutes or until the top has spots of dark brown.

This a simple dish and details can be altered to suit you and your guests needs. You can chop the vegetables finer if you like or do in strips. You can mix the cheeses or layer them. Either way you MUST serve these with fresh homemade tortillas! Nothing else highlights a fresh warm tortilla like fundido melting all down your arm!

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