Tag Archives: fiesta friday

A Cinco Taco Party

Happy almost Cinco de Mayo!  I love, love, love, that it is falling on a Friday this year since I already do Fiesta Friday.  It also marks the 2 year anniversary of A Capitol Contessa being born, so lots to celebrate.  If you want to kick your celebration up a notch there are some cute ideas here on how to make your taco night extra special.

First up the margs – those are a given but how cute would it be to serve them in Patron bottles?  The mini bottles are sort of pricey but you can use the tequila inside and then just wash them out and reuse the bottles anytime you want to fiesta.

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You could serve my spicy grapefruit margaritas from my very first post in honor of the anniversary (skip the salt air though as I am not sure how you would get it into these bottles).  If you are pressed for time, I like to cheat with this skinny margarita mix from Williams Sonoma.  I usually HATE margarita mixes because they taste super fake and have way too much acid but this one is great – I just doctor it up with a couple squeezes of fresh lime juice and you are good to go.  Now we need to talk decor – Mexican themed of course.  I like to throw down some serapes as table covers (they are excellent for hiding salsa spills).  I also found these colorful votive candle holders at the dollar section of Target – definitely look around close to Cinco de Mayo and you can find some cute items that you can pull out every Fiesta Friday.

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Since this is a special party I always think favors are the way to go.  You can always do mini tequilas but I found these incredible bags of sea salt for margaritas in beautiful handwoven bags.  A really nice touch and something your guests can use over and over again at their own homes.

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Ok on to the menu – the most important part!  You need a great starter to go with those adorable margaritas so try my queso and poblano dip.  I also set out regular salsa – I love Rick Bayless’s Chipolte Salsa, it’s the only jarred salsa I will eat.

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Then on to the tacos – I went grilled chicken for ease but you could also make my carnitas or my Carne Asada tacos.  I just simply marinate chicken breasts for an hour or so in lime juice, olive oil and grated garlic and then throw in the grill.  Cause really it’s all about the toppings right?

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I like to have as many toppings as possible and lots of them are things you already have in your house.  If all the queso and salsa aren’t gone from earlier set those out for the tacos.  Then chopped red onion, grated cheese (jack is my fave), some sautéed peppers and onions for a fajita type feel, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce…and on and on – the limit is your imagination!  I had some yummy mole sauce from a local Mexican market that I threw out there – those places are gold mines of inspiration.  Also make sure to set out hot sauces (we have maybe thirty), heat up some store bought tortillas and you have taco night.

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A great side for tacos is my tex mex quinoa salad as it’s a one bowl wonder that has veggies, beans, and quinoa all in a tart vinaigrette.  Also good would be my mexican beans and greens or my mexican creamed onions.

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To finish off the evening make life easy – grab some mango or strawberry popsicles from the store and call them paletas (Mexican popsicles) – especially good served in a glass of mezcal as a night cap!

Thank you to everyone for making A Capitol Contessa even more popular in its second year as in its first.  We had over 7,000 visitors!!!  It really is a joy for me to share my cooking and entertaining adventures with the world.  Raise a margarita and have a great Cinco de Mayo/Fiesta Friday!

Jalapeno Chips

Years ago I made my first visit to Texas to celebrate the wedding of two dear friends.  The wedding was held in rural Texas where the bride was from – a totally different kind of place than I have ever known.  A real “one horse town,” Cleburne, TX didn’t have a ton of dining options but one dish stands out, now almost 5 years since that trip.  Deep fried jalapeno chips – we ordered them with lunch, we went back and ordered more for a snack before the ceremony, and then we got them late night after the reception.  Super spicy and served with a ranch type dressing I could seriously have eaten these all day long.  When we got back from the wedding I set out to make these part of our lives.

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Cause you should definitely drink habanero beer alongside jalapeno chips!

Now if these were going to become part of our regular diet, then deep frying and dipping it into a fatty sauce wasnt going to do.  So I baked them and used my standard go to yogurt sauce (also seen here and here).  These are pretty spicy, even with the seeds taken out.  I find its best if you get the biggest jalapenos you can find as its easier to get most of the membrane and seeds out.  Look at these big boys!

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I serve these all the time as a healthy side with tacos or as an appetizer – they would be perfect for watching football this weekend and are totally guiltless.

Jalapeno Chips (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  A Texas Trip
Special Equipment:  plastic gloves (optional)

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray
  • 8-10 large jalapenos
  • 6 ounces non fat Greek plain yogurt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (I like chives, parsley, thyme, mint – anything works)
  • 1 garlic glove, minced or grated
  • salt and pepper

Put one cup of the buttermilk and the breadcrumbs in two separate bowls.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  If you have plastic gloves don those now!  With a knife cut off both ends of the jalapenos and discard.  Then cut each pepper into 1/2 inch thick rings, I like to do it on a bit of a diagonal.

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Put the jalapeno rings into the buttermilk.  (I keep the gloves on for this part to keep my hands clean)

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Shake off the excess buttermilk and coat each ring in the breadcrumbs.  Once they are coated place on the cookie sheet.  Once they are all coated you can pop them in the fridge for up to 24 hours before baking them off or if you are ready to go, place them in the oven.  DSC03983

Bake for 8 minutes, then shake the cookie sheet or flip the chips over and bake for another 8 minutes.  While the chips are baking combine the yogurt, herbs, garlic and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the rest of the buttermilk until it is a good dipping consistency (the dip can be made days in advance and is great with pretty much anything).  When the chips are done sprinkle them with salt and serve with the yogurt sauce.

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Jalapeno Chips

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 15 minutes
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Special Equipment:  plastic gloves (optional)

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray
  • 8-10 large jalapenos
  • 6 ounces non fat Greek plain yogurt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (I like chives, parsley, thyme, mint – anything works)
  • 1 garlic glove, minced or grated
  • salt and pepper

Put one cup of the buttermilk and the breadcrumbs in two separate bowls.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  If you have plastic gloves don those now!  With a knife cut off both ends of the jalapenos and discard.  Then cut each pepper into 1/2 inch thick rings, I like to do it on a bit of a diagonal.  Once you have all the rings use your fingers to pop out the seeds and membranes in the middle.  Put the jalapeno rings into the buttermilk.  (I keep the gloves on for this part to keep my hands clean)  Shake off the excess buttermilk and coat each ring in the breadcrumbs.  Once they are coated place on the cookie sheet.

Once they are all coated you can pop them in the fridge for up to 24 hours before baking them off or if you are ready to go, place them in the oven.  Bake for 8 minutes, then shake the cookie sheet or flip the chips over and bake for another 8 minutes.  While the chips are baking combine the yogurt, herbs, garlic and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the rest of the buttermilk until it is a good dipping consistency (the dip can be made days in advance and is great with pretty much anything).  When the chips are done sprinkle them with salt and serve with the yogurt sauce.

Carne Asada

I found this awesome Mole Salt by Amola at where else, Salt and Sundry, and have used it to season avocado toast and punch up my hot coca.  I realized that since it already has some spices like coca and cinnamon in it that I could throw it into a spice blend and skip some steps.  This spice rub would be great on pork as well but my man was asking for steak so for Fiesta Friday we went with Carne Asada.

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For carne asada what you really want is a nice crust on the outside so I made sure to include some brown sugar in the spice rub to help caramelize the meat.  I used a flat iron steak which I like because it has a good amount of fat but isn’t too thick so it cooks quickly.  I also like skirt steak for this – flank, which is usually my go to steak is a little too lean for me but is certainly traditional for carne asada.  This would be great with my tex mex quinoa salad on the side or Mexican beans and greens.  Carne asada is also perfect for steak tacos – make sure to serve them up with my HOT habanero sauce and some sour cream.

Carne Asada (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Mole Salt
Special Equipment:  grill

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used pasilla chili powder)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mole salt (or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus a pinch of coca powder and a pinch of cinnamon)
  • 1 pound flat iron or skirt steak

Mix the spices together in a small bowl.  Pat the meat dry and rub all over both sides with the spice mixture.

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Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour.  Light your grill on high and grill 3 to 5 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your meat and how you like your steak done.

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Cover with tin foil and rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

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Carne Asada

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 10 minutes active, up to 1 hour 20 minutes total
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Special Equipment:  grill

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mole salt (or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus a pinch of coca powder and a pinch of cinnamon)
  • 1 pound flat iron or skirt steak

Mix the spices together in a small bowl.  Pat the meat dry and rub all over both sides with the spice mixture.  Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour.  Light your grill on high and grill 3 to 5 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your meat and how you like your steak done.  Cover with tin foil and rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

 

 

Mexican Beans and Greens

Beans and Greens is a super traditional Italian dish that is usually made with bitter escarole greens and creamy white cannellini beans.  I love this dish and make it often.  However, for Fiesta Friday I wanted to come up with a Mexican version.  Black beans sub in along with black kale to give this dish a more rustic touch and mezcal is thrown in for good measure.  I had lovely spring onions from the farmers market but you could use a red onion, or regular white onion no problem.  This dish comes together really quickly and can be a great vegan/vegetarian main dish served alongside quinoa or rice.  I love to have it with braised turkey tacos or grilled skirt steak.  This is a great side to make extra of so you can have it for lunch the next day – really filling and healthy with a ton of flavor.  Happy Fiesta Friday and see you all next week!

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Mexican Beans and Greens (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  a spicier, smokier version of the Italian classic
Special Equipment:  none

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch spring onions, chopped or 1 medium red or white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large bunch of black kale (also called dinosaur or lacinato) – leafy part ripped off the stem and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup mezcal

In a large skillet (that has a lid) heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic (being careful not to burn the garlic) and jalapeno.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions are soft.  Add in the beans and kale and toss so everything is combined.

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Add the mezcal and cover – adjust the heat until it is just simmering, usually low or medium low.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and season with salt and pepper.  If the liquid hasn’t all cooked off yet cook uncovered for several more minutes.

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Mexican Beans and Greens

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch spring onions, chopped or 1 medium red or white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large bunch of black kale (also called dinosaur or lacinato)
  • 1/2 cup mezcal

In a large skillet (that has a lid) heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic (being careful not to burn the garlic) and jalapeno.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions are soft.  Add in the beans and kale and toss so everything is combined.  Add the mezcal and cover – adjust the heat until it is just simmering, usually low or medium low.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and season with salt and pepper.  If the liquid hasn’t all cooked off yet cook uncovered for several more minutes.

 

Creamy Avocado Linguine

Always looking for ways to incorporate pasta into my day I concocted this dish the other day.  I was hoping to use up items in my fridge and pantry and since there is always some rotation of peppers hanging around I thought a pasta with an almost guacamole type sauce would be good.  But we can be more refined than that right?  So blend all the ingredients together and get a silky smooth yet spicy and complex sauce.  DONE.   A great vegetarian main course or side for some grilled chicken.  I topped it with sliced fresno chilis (sometimes called red jalapenos) which are easily my favorite pepper to use these days but you could leave those off, use another pepper or just sprinkle on red pepper flakes if you need more heat.  I also had queso fresco on hand, a semi hard salty Mexican cheese, but parmesan would be a good sub.  Or omit the grated cheese on top and you will have a super creamy but creamless vegan dish on your hands (I could not help myself and of course added the cheese).

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Creamy Avocado Linguine (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  guacamole pasta
Special Equipment:  food processor

  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola or veggie oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 avocado
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3/4 pound of linguine (I used fresh…from Wegmans)
  • 2 fresno chilis
  • queso blanco

Preheat your broiler and stem the poblano.  Place the poblano on a cookie sheet and broil for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and blackened.  Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for 10 minutes.

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Peel and seed the peppers (I like to do this with plastic gloves on).  Put the poblano into the food processor.  While the peppers are steaming, heat the oil over medium heat in a small skillet.  Sautee the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until softened but not browned (lower the heat if you need to keep it from browning).  Scrape the onion mixture into the food processor.  Cut the avocado in half, get rid of the pit and scrape all of the meat into the food processor.

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Pulse a couple of limes to combine then add the lime juice.  Run until smooth then taste for salt and pepper.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt the water and cook the pasta according to the directions.  While the pasta cooks, finely slice the fresno chilis and grate the queso fresco for the pasta.  Drain the pasta and toss with the avocado sauce.  Top with the sliced chilis and cheese.

Creamy Avocado Linguine

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  food processor

  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola or veggie oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 avocado
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3/4 pound of linguine (I used fresh…from Wegmans)
  • 2 fresno chilis
  • queso blanco

Preheat your broiler and stem the poblano.  Place the poblano on a cookie sheet and broil for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and blackened.  Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for 10 minutes.  Peel and seed the peppers (I like to do this with plastic gloves on).  Put the poblano into the food processor.  While the peppers are steaming heat the oil over medium heat in a small skillet.  Sautee the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until softened but not browned (lower the heat if you need to keep it from browning).  Scrape the onion mixture into the food processor.  Cut the avocado in half, get rid of the pit and scrape all of the meat into the food processor.  Pulse a couple of limes to combine then add the lime juice.  Run until smooth then taste for salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt the water and cook the pasta according to the directions.  While the pasta cooks, finely slice the fresno chilis and grate the queso fresco for the pasta.  Drain the pasta and toss with the avocado sauce.  Top with the sliced chilis and cheese.

Blackberry Mojito

What better way to kick off a long weekend then with a fresh and fruity drink?  My friend Jim just got back from Vegas where he told me about a blackberry mojito he sipped by the pool.  Regular mojitos are a great summer drink already but the addition of blackberries got me super excited to make one.  A little extra tartness and the beautiful color!  Back in my bartending days mojitos were my mortal enemy but making them at home is way easier than making say 12 of them at happy hour in 2 minutes!  Really all you need is a muddler (this one is the newer version of mine and actually even better with a larger face to smash with) but even if you don’t have one you can just use the handle of a wooden spoon.

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I muddled right into my highball glass as these are pretty solid but if you are using a more fragile glass do yourself a favor and do it in a cocktail shaker and then pour it into your glass. Many a pretty tumbler has been lost to overzealous muddling.  Mix up one of these, sit back and relax and enjoy the official start of summer!

Blackberry Mojito (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  sipping cocktails by the pool in Vegas
Special Equipment:  muddler or wooden spoon handle

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 3 blackberries (plus 1 for garnish if you would like)
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice (plus a lime wedge for garnish, also optional)
  • 2 1/2 ounces white rum
  • ice
  • club soda

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved (about 4 minutes).  Turn off the heat and add 4 or 5 sprigs of mint.  Let the mint steep for 10 minutes, then pull out the sprigs and put the simple syrup in the fridge to chill.  This can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a week (you only need 2 ounces for the cocktail so you will have plenty of left over for more mojitos or to stir into iced tea).

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In a highball glass, or in a cocktail shaker, add 8 mint leaves and the blackberries.  Using your muddler smash the leaves and berries together to release the oils of the mint and the juice of the berries.  Add the lime juice, 2 ounces of the mint simple syrup, and the rum.  Fill the rest of the glass with ice and top with the club soda.  Stir to combine and garnish with a blackberry and lime if desired.

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Blackberry Mojito

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 30 minutes for syrup, 1 minute for cocktail
  • Print

Special Equipment:  muddler or wooden spoon handle

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 3 blackberries (plus 1 for garnish if you would like)
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice (plus a lime wedge for garnish, also optional)
  • 2 1/2 ounces white rum
  • ice
  • club soda

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved (about 4 minutes).  Turn off the heat and add 4 or 5 sprigs of mint.  Let the mint steep for 10 minutes, then pull out the sprigs and put the simple syrup in the fridge to chill.  This can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a week (you only need 2 ounces for the cocktail so you will have plenty of left over for more mojitos or to stir into iced tea).

In a highball glass or in a cocktail shaker add 8 mint leaves and the blackberries.  Using your muddler smash the leaves and berries together to release the oils of the mint and the juice of the berries.  Add the lime juice, 2 ounces of the mint simple syrup, and the rum.  Fill the rest of the glass with ice and top with the club soda.  Stir to combine and garnish with a blackberry and lime if desired.

Habanero Sauce

Want to heat up your Cinco de Mayo party this year??  Go with this sauce.  It is not for the faint of heart for sure.  Inspired by the terrific habanero salsa I had at Espita (along with the lamb tacos I know are already on your menu) this is sort of a cross between a salsa and a hot sauce.  You could certainly eat it with chips, it has the right consistency, but if you wanted to do that I would maybe cut down the habaneros to about 10 instead of 15.  However, it makes a great hot condiment on its own to add to tacos, grilled steak or swirled into chili.  I used a mix of habaneros, one of my favorite peppers, and those baby bell peppers you find in bags at the grocery store to tame down the heat level.  Habaneros pair SO well with orange juice, not just because they are both orange but because the sweetness plays off of the fruitiness of the peppers (how beautiful is the color??).  Pro tip – when you are broiling the peppers keep your exhaust fan going or open a window in your kitchen.  I once took Patrick to a hot sauce making class for our anniversary and it was held in a ventless room – not a great idea, imagine inhaling pure hot pepper fumes for an hour!  Also definitely go out and buy some plastic gloves to keep in your kitchen.  They are great when handling any hot peppers but either way please make sure to carefully wash your hands before you touch anything, especially your face!  A little goes a long way with this sauce so luckily it lasts a long time in the fridge.  You can pull it out whenever you want to spice up a dull week.  Happy almost Cinco de Mayo!

Habanero Sauce (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   one of the fiery salsas at Espita
Special Equipment:  food processor, plastic gloves optional

  • 15 habanero peppers
  • 5-6 baby yellow or orange bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • the juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat your broiler and lay the habaneros and baby bell peppers on a cookie sheet.  If any of the peppers have stems attached, pull those off.  Broil the peppers for 5 minutes, flip them over and broil for 5 more minutes until they are blackened.

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Using tongs transfer the peppers to a medium size bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let them steam and cool for 10 minutes before handling.  While they steam, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onion and garlic cloves for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions soften.  Add the onion mixture to the food processor along with the agave nectar, orange zest and orange juice and the cider vinegar.  I recommend using plastic gloves for when you seed the habaneros.

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Remove them from the bowl and on a large cutting board use your knife to scrape the seeds and membranes from the inside of both the habaneros and the baby bell peppers (no need to peel off the skins).  Put the deseeded peppers into the food processor and puree until combined.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.  WARNING – this stuff is hot!  It can be stored covered in the fridge for several months.

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Habanero Sauce

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  food processor, plastic gloves optional

  • 15 habanero peppers
  • 5-6 baby yellow or orange bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • the juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat your broiler and lay the habaneros and baby bell peppers on a cookie sheet.  If any of the peppers have stems attached, pull those off.  Broil the peppers for 5 minutes, flip them over and broil for 5 more minutes until they are blackened.  Using tongs transfer the peppers to a medium size bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let them steam and cool for 10 minutes before handling.  While they steam heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onion and garlic cloves for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions soften.  Add the onion mixture to the food processor along with the agave nectar, orange zest and orange juice and the cider vinegar.  I recommend using plastic gloves for when you seed the habaneros. Remove them from the bowl and on a large cutting board use your knife to scrape the seeds and membranes from the inside of both the habaneros and the baby bell peppers (no need to peel off the skins).  Put the deseeded peppers into the food processor and puree until combined.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.  WARNING – this stuff is hot!  It can be stored covered in the fridge for several months.

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