Tag Archives: mexican

Clementine Margarita

It is #nationaltacoday so I figured it would be fitting to post a nice margarita to wash down those tacos.  My friend Naz came over this summer with a bag full of her own cocktail kit and shook up a bunch of terrific margaritas for us.  Who doesn’t want a friend like that??  She used tangerine juice but that can be hard to find so I used clementine – they are both delicious.  The sweet tang of the clementine juice is the perfect base for the tequila and she introduced me to Patron Lime Liquor which has a more limey taste then triple sec.  Happy National Taco Day!

Clementine Margarita

  • 2 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 ounce Patron Lime Liqour
  • 4 ounces clementine juice
  • ice, salt and lime wedge

Shake the tequila, lime liquor and clementine juice in a cocktail shaker with ice until cold.  Pour over ice, in a salt rimmed glass if you prefer (I like to use spicy salt).

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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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!

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. 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

  • 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.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos

I hope you all saw my post on Thursday about the fantastic new Mexican resturant in DC, Espita Mezcaleria.  Everything I ate there was delicious but the lamb barbacoa tacos were out of this world.  Before my second bite I told Patrick I needed to figure out how to make these at home.  I have had lamb tacos before but usually they consist of grilled lamb that has been thinly sliced or ground lamb served in hard shells.  The Espita tacos had richly sauced braised lamb folded into their homemade tortillas.  A slow cooker seemed like the best way to ensure that the lamb got fall-apart tender.  Lamb shoulder would be perfect for this but it can be difficult to find most of the year, whereas lamb leg you can pretty much always  track down.  I bought my lamb boneless and pre-butterflied because that’s all they had at the store but I promise it’s really easy to do and a good skill to have.

It really doesn’t have to be perfect at all since it’s all going into the slow cooker – if you are butterflying for the grill you want to make sure the meat is even thickness.  This recipe is a little more fussy than most of my slow cooker recipes – you want a decent amount of liquid to cook the lamb in but then you should cook it down to help concentrate the flavor.  If I really had all day I would have cooked all of the liquid down to the 1 1/2 cups needed but the house smelled too good to wait.  The lamb at Espita had a nice smokey, spicy sauce on it so I thought chipoltes were in order.  I used the dried peppers in the cooking process and then chipoltes in adobo to flavor the sauce.  If you cannot find dried chiptoltes in the store, any dried chili pepper will do.  As for the chipolte puree, I just take a can of the chipoltes in adobo (which you know about from here) and puree it in the food processor.  I use what I need and then keep the rest in the fridge for whenever I want to add a little kick (it will last indefinitely because of the vinegar content).  If you don’t want to do that just take one or two of the chipoltes, smash it with a fork and add them to the lamb along with some of the adobo sauce.  I served the tacos with chopped raw onion, some purple cabbage and a squeeze of lime.  I also added some of my Habanero Hot Sauce which I will be posting on Tuesday (yowza it’s hot!).  This would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo celebrations, just make it this weekend, pop it in the freezer and then defrost for next weekend!

Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos 

  • 3 dried chipolte peppers, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 gloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons chipolte puree (a can of chipoltes in adobo pureed)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the dried chilis and toast them in the dry pan for 3 or 4 minutes, flipping once, until they darken a bit and you can smell the chili.  Remove and put into the slow cooker.  Add the oil to the pan and salt and pepper the lamb while you wait for the oil to heat.  Once the oil is hot add the lamb to the pan and brown on one side without disturbing it for 5 minutes.

Flip and cook for 5 minutes more until both sides are nice and brown.  Remove the lamb from the pan and add to the slow cooker.  There should be enough fat from the lamb and the oil in the pan but if not add a touch more canola oil   Add the onions to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or two and then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander and salt and pepper.

Cook for another 2 minutes until the onions are softened.  Add the can of tomatoes and use the liquid to deglaze the pan of any brown bits stuck on the bottom.  Add the contents of the pan into the slow cooker with the lamb and chipoltes.  Add beef stock so the liquid comes up at least three-quarters of the way up the lamb (you may not need all 3 cups).  Turn on the slow cooker to low and cook for 5 to 6 hours.

Carefully pull out the lamb and place it on a cutting board to cool (it’s ok if it falls apart a bit as you do this as you are just going to shred it anyway).  I used a large spatula and a wooden spoon to get it out of there.  Pull out the dried chipoltes and toss.  Pour the rest of the content of the slow cooker and its liquid into a blender or  food processor (carefully!) and blend until smooth.  Transfer one and a half cups of the puree to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer over low for 30 minutes until the liquid has thickened a bit, stir in desired amount of chipolte puree.

While the sauce simmers shred the meat once its cool enough to handle, it should fall apart very easily.  Once the sauce it done combine it with the shredded lamb.  You can serve right away or store in the fridge for several days or the freezer for several months.

Short Rib Nachos

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These are O.M.G good.  Life changing.  You can also make them in less than 10 minutes, give or take grating cheese time.  How is that possible you ask?  Your best friend the freezer.  Remember these amazing short rib tacos from a couple of months ago?  Well you made a big batch like instructed and froze a bunch for later.  Now is the time to dig them out of the freezer and spread them all over a huge mound of chips and cheese.  Seriously, if you are going to take the time to make a slow cooked item like short ribs, it takes the exact same time to cook enough for 4 as it does for 6 (or 10 for that matter) so go ahead and make way more than you need.  Then when Thursday night football rolls around and you realize you don’t have a fabulous football meal planned for mid-week you can absolutely kill it with these nachos.

If you don’t have those short ribs tucked away in your freezer go ahead and throw some shredded chicken on here – really this is just a method.  Swap out cheddar for jack cheese or red salsa for green – it’s a great way to get rid of stuff hanging around in your fridge.  One pro tip courtesy of my husband – make sure to take the extra step of tossing half the chips and cheese together before topping with the rest.  That ensures you don’t just end up with one layer of cheese, neglecting lots of the chips.  This made the perfect football dinner (yep just for two people, no judging) but it would also make a great appetizer for Fiesta Friday.  I went ahead and just ate these babies straight off of the cookie sheet because I didn’t want to waste time transferring them to something nicer but for a dinner party just use two spatulas to transfer, should happen pretty easy with all that cheese acting as glue!

Short Rib Tacos 

  • 10 ounces of tortilla chips
  • 8 ounces of grated jack cheese
  • 1 to 3 fresno chilis (or jalapenos) thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups leftover short ribs (or other shredded meat) – room temperature or rewarmed
  • 4 tablespoons salsa verde
  • 2 scallions, green and white part, chopped
  • sour cream to serve

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  On a cookie sheet spread half of the chips and half of the cheese and toss together.  Top with the rest of the chips, then evenly distribute over top the rest of the cheese, the chilis, the short ribs and the salsa.  Bake for 6 to 7 minutes until all the cheese is melted.  Sprinkle with the scallions and dollop on the sour cream or serve on the side.

Glorious Carnitas

I have said it before and I will say it again – my next door neighbor Ben, is by far and away one of my best customers.  He always likes what I cook, has a huge appetite and likes a wide range of food.  Having him over always gives me an ego boost and usually means I don’t have to find tupperware to hold any leftovers!  However, when I made these carnitas and tested them out on him, I knew they were on a whole other level.  The recipe serves 8 but at the end of the night there was nothing left in the plate…and there were only 3 other people eating besides Ben!  They are indeed the perfect carnitas.  Tender, crispy and juicy, flavorful and not greasy – carnitas nirvana.  I got the methodology from Cook’s Illustrated – braise the meat for a long time, cook down the cooking liquid to a glaze, then toss the meat with the glaze and crisp it up under the broiler.  This method makes these carnitas perfect for making ahead.  Yes, pretty time-consuming but not at all labor intensive and absolutely worth it.  The recipe calls for a 4 pound pork butt (often Boston butt – why people why???) roast.  Unfortunately my local super market has only been selling gargantuan 9 to 10 pound roasts so I had the pleasure of hacking one in half early in the AM so I could get it braising.  Just another joy of cooking!

You can serve these delicious carnitas on their own or as part of a taco filling.  I paired them with rice and beans and as many hot sauces that can fit on our table.  Happy fiesta Friday!

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Carnitas

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless boston pork butt roast, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 orange, halved

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  In a large dutch oven place the pork, water, onion, lime juice, oregano, cumin, bay leaves and salt and pepper.  Using a strainer, juice the orange over the mix in the dutch oven, catching the seeds.  Throw in the juiced orange halves for good measure.

Over high heat bring the liquid to a boil, then cover and place it in the oven.  Bake it in the oven for 1 hour, carefully stir the pork around and then bake it for another hour.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the pork and set it aside in a bowl to cool.  Use that same spoon to scoop out the onion, orange halves and bay leaves and trash them.  Place the dutch oven over high heat and cook the liquid over high heat.  Stir it pretty frequently – you want it to reach a glaze like consistency so cook for about 10-12 minutes.  If you over cook it just rehydrate with a little water.

When it’s done turn off the heat and start shredding the meat.  Use two forks, or just your fingers, and break each piece in two or three large pieces.  You don’t want it super shredded, you want bite size chunks.  Stir in the glaze and season it with salt and pepper.  At this point you can let the mixture cool, cover and put it in the fridge for a couple of days (if you do make it in advance take the meat out of the fridge an hour before you want to serve it so it can come to room temperature).  When you are ready to finish the carnitas, heat your broiler.  Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and then place a baking rack over the foil.  Place the glaze covered carnitas on the baking rack and put it in the broiler.  Broil for 5 to 7 minutes, flip the pieces and then broil for 5 to 7 minutes more.

Strawberry Margarita

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How else to celebrate the first Fiesta Friday of August then with a delicious summery margarita?!?  This strawberry marg is nothing like those gross syrupy things that churn round and round in Island Oasis machines.  This is a drink that packs a punch, tempered by sweet fresh strawberry puree.  The inspiration was Patrick buying 2 pounds (pounds!) of strawberries right before we left for Chicago.  Try as I might, I wasn’t able to put down all those strawberries so I decided to make a strawberry puree and freeze it in hopes of using it later.  When we returned I thawed the puree and it tasted just as fresh and juicy as when I made it.  The puree is just strawberries and a little bit of sugar thrown into the food processor until smooth.  I added a 1/3 cup of sugar for 2 pounds but really it depends on how sweet your strawberries are to start with.  Add just enough sugar to encourage the strawberries to give up some of their juice and whir away.  It should last in your fridge for a couple of days.  If you don’t finish it all then freeze in a large container if you have a lot of margaritas in mind or several smaller ones so you can pull out the puree whenever you need a summery boost.  This puree would also be terrific over ice cream, swirled in yogurt, or on pancakes or waffles.  Definitely make some before the season is over.

Strawberry Margarita 

  • 2 ounces strawberry puree
  • 3 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 1/2 ounces triple sec or Cointreau
  • 2 ounces lime juice

Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice.  Shake until cold and then strain into a cold glass with a salt rim if desired.

Note:  To make the strawberry puree, just process hulled strawberries with a little bit of sugar in the food processor until smooth.  No need to strain out the seeds.  1 pound of strawberries should make about 16 ounces of puree, good for 8 margaritas.

Short Rib Tacos

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Yea I know, what won’t this woman put in a taco??  Pretty much nothing but honestly these are incredible, not just because of the flavor but how easy they are.  Time consuming sure but the “hands on” time is almost zero.  I got the methodology from Cooks Illustrated – if you have never picked up their magazine it’s definitely worth a try.  They basically do all the work for you by testing and retesting different ingredients, proportions and cooking methods in a super methodical, almost scientific way.  I can find sometimes the flavors a bit lacking, but the techniques they share are always spot on and flavor is easy to enhance with some tweaks.  This method is just genius because it cuts out the two most annoying things about slow cooking – browning and chopping.  Browning meat is incredibly important to flavor, as the heat carmelizes the sugars in the meat and really develops them.  By lifting the short ribs out of the liquid it’s braising in on onion slices these folks have discovered a way to get the browned meat without having to spend the time cooking each side before adding it to the pot with the aromatics.  Also by pureeing the sauce you lose the need to chop any of the veggies, meaning all you have to do is slice an onion and then everything else is just tossed in the pot.  I did this in a dutch oven but you could easily convert this to a slow cooker (especially in the summer not to heat up the house).  I included both so you can do either.  This recipe makes a ton so perfect for your next taco party.  It can be frozen for up to 6 months so if you don’t eat it right away divide the rest into smaller portions and then you can have pulled short rib tacos on a week night and blow everyone away.

Short Rib Tacos 

  • 1 ½ cups beer (I used Negro Modelo)
  • ½ cup cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 6 ancho chiles, stemmed and torn into 1 inch pieces (I leave the seeds in but you can take them out for less heat)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (dried)
  • ½ teaspoons ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1-2 large onions, sliced ½ inch thick slices
  • 3 pounds boneless short ribs

Take the short ribs out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you are going to cook.  Pat them dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (if using the dutch oven).  Then dump in the beer, vinegar, anchos, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, clove and cinnamon in a large dutch oven (or slow cooker).  Season with salt and pepper again and then nestle in the onion rounds so they form a layer on the bottom of the pot (or slow cooker) that will keep the short ribs from touching the bottom.

Depending on the size of your onion it will probably only take one but have a second on hand just in case.  Place the short ribs on top and cover.  Place in the oven and cook for 3 hours (if using a slow cooker cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours).  The meat, even without browning, should have a nice crust on it.

Take out the meat and put it in a bowl.  Pull out the bay leaves and then blend the onions and the liquid in a blender or food processor.  The original said to trash the onions but why throw away flavor??  At this point you could probably just use the sauce but I like to get as much fat out of it as possible.  Easiest way to do this if you have time it to place it in the fridge or freezer until the fat creates a solid layer on top that you can scrape off (that will take a couple of hours).  If not just let sit until the fat rises to the top and skim it off.

Shred the meat with 2 forks or your fingers and stir it into the sauce.  It can be served right away, or stored in the fridge for a couple of days and the freezer for a couple of months.

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