What a first weekend of May ahead for everyone. It seems like just yesterday I was living in France and spent this first weekend of May dancing around a maypole in Eching, Germany, just outside Munich (this was too many years ago now to count).
Millions across the U.S. and Europe will be dancing around the maypole tomorrow welcoming May’s flowers. Except, in the Midwest the weather still says January and here in California it’s August. At least it’s spring in Seattle! 72 and clear there this Friday.
Of course this first weekend of May brings the blockbuster Saturday-Sunday doubleheader of Kentucky Derby day followed by Cinco de Mayo. Both are always some of my favorite days of the year and for our purposes here, both factor food and drink heavily into the proceedings. After all, the Kentucky Derby race itself is only three minutes. You can barely muddle the mint for a Mint Julep in that time span.
We’ll cover the Louisville event in a moment, but for now, here are five menus spanning the spectacular, vast cuisines of Mexico’s regions. For recipes not linked, I’ll provide them at the bottom of the article. For all menus, why not set out some chips, salsa, and guacamole. With salsa and tortilla chips, I always cheat and head to the store. Fresh tortilla chips! Fresh salsa with real tomato chunks and plenty of cilantro! If you’re feeling creative this year, go for a mango salsa with habanero. Guacamole-wise, smash 3 large, ripe avocados with one large and seeded tomato or two smaller Roma tomatoes. Add the juice of a lemon, a diced raw garlic clove, and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper for heat. There you go, the crowd anticipates more excitement to come.
Each menu features a cocktail. However, there is nothing wrong with a horchata, watermelon agua fresca, or whatever your favorite Mexican beer is. If only we had access to some of the wines being produced in Mexico’s Valle de Guadeloupe or the chance to sample the burgeoning craft brewery scene with innovators, such as Tempus and Minerva.
A Trio of Tacos: Al Pastor, Baja Fish, and Vegetarian with Zucchini and Corn from Loteria in Los Angeles
Tamales with Pork or Beef or Both from this great guide for beginners by Saveur
Chipotle Roasted Carrots from Alex Stupak of Empellon Cocina, New York
Rick Bayless’ epic 28 ingredient Mole Negro with Chicken
Dessert: Arroz con Leche
Margarita from Mansion del Rio, San Antonio. Nothing beats this rendition, heavy on the orange flavorings.
The Perfect Storm from The Dutch, Miami
Yours truly’s Chicken Enchiladas
Dessert: Fany Gerson’s Peanut Marzipans
Menu 5– The Ambitious One
The Brave…yes, bring out the powerful one for the big day from Anvil in Houston
Cochinita Pibil from Barrio Cafe in Phoenix
Dessert: Mayan Chocolate Cake
Recipes from Trev’s Bistro
Felch Family Chicken Enchiladas (Serves 4-6)
Place 4 chicken breasts in a pot and cover with water and a teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat until chicken is cooked and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
Then make the tomato sauce. Start by melting 2 Tbs. butter and sauté a chopped onion and a minced garlic clove until golden. Then add 3 oz. canned green chili, 1 can of tomato paste, and one 15 oz. can of tomato sauce. Season with coriander, pepper, crushed red pepper, oregano, cumin, and basil– roughly a teaspoon of each. Cover the sauce and simmer over low heat until thickened for about 15 minutes.
Remove skin and bones from chicken if any, then cut into small five inch strips. Using tongs, dip 12 tortillas into the sauce, one at a time. Place a few chicken strips and about 2Tbs. of grated Monterey Jack cheese into the middle of each tortilla. Roll the tortilla in thirds and place seam side down in a greased 13 x9 x 2″ dish. Mix 3/4 cup sour cream into the tomato sauce mixture and pour over rolled tortillas completely. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Finish baking for 10 minutes with no foil cover.
Voilà! Serve over a bed of Little Gem lettuce if you so desire.
Add 3 oz. Mezcal, 1 egg white, 1.5 oz. simple syrup, and 1 1/2 oz. of Meyer lemon juice. Shake vigorously for 45 seconds WITHOUT ICE (a “dry shake”). Then shake for 10 seconds with ice. Strain and serve up in martini glass. Garnish with Angostura bitters.
Cucumber-Jalapeno Margarita (for 2)
Muddle 3 Serrano chiles and 3 slices of cucumber in shaker. Add 2/14 oz. agave nectar, 3 oz. lime juice, and 5 1/4 oz. Tequila Blanco. Shake, strain, and service on large rock in old-fashioned glass.
The Perfect Storm
1 1/2 oz. Milagro Silver tequila, 3/4 oz. Canton ginger liqueur, 3/4 oz. lime juice, 1/2 oz. agave syrup
Shake and strain into Collins glass. Top with grapefruit soda splash and garnish with sprig of thyme.