Mexican recipes for a tasty Cinco de Mayo feast

Abigale Subdhan / The Social
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with these festive recipes from culinary expert, Camille Moore.

Ingredients Glossary
  • Ancho Chili Powder – dried and ground poblano peppers, from the region of Puebla in Mexico.  It’s dark and smoky, with a deep and rich flavour and moderate heat, made from 100% poblano peppers.  Regular chili powder is different because it is a mixture of dried peppers and other spices like cumin, garlic and oregano.
  • Cotija Cheese – pronounced “ko-tea-ha”.  A Mexican dry grating cheese made mostly from cow’s milk.  Similar to feta.
  • Cajeta – pronounced “ka-heh-ta”.  A Mexican caramel sauce made from sweetened goat’s milk that has been simmered for hours.  Similar to dulce de leche, but is made from goat’s milk.  
  • Oaxaca Cheese – pronounced “wa-ha-ka”, also known as queso Oaxaca.  A white, semi-hard cheese from Mexico.  Similar to an unaged Monterey Jack, but with a string-like texture similar to mozzarella.   
  • Aji Panca Sauce – Aji Panca is a type of dried chili pepper from South America, most commonly Peru.  The peppers are dark red in colour and have a smoky, fruity taste with just a touch of heat.  It is easily found in sauce form at Latin grocery stores, in the Latin foods aisle at larger grocers, and online.  


Roasted Poblano Queso Fundido
Makes 1 10-11” dish

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Ingredients
  • 3 roasted poblano peppers, peeled, seeded, and chopped (see note below for tips)
  • ¼ Cup dry Spanish chorizo, casing removed and chopped small
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 Cups Oaxacan cheese, grated (substitution: mozzarella)
  • 1 Cup white cheddar cheese

Serve with:
  • Tortilla chips, low sodium (because there’s already enough salt in the cheese and chorizo)
  • Soft corn or flour tortillas

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F with the rack positioned in the top third of the oven.  
  2. Preheat a 10” or 11” skillet over medium heat.  Once heated, add chopped chorizo to the dry pan (i.e. no oil added) and cook for about 2 minutes to render some, but not all, of the fat.  Remove chorizo from skillet and transfer to a small bowl, leaving the fat behind.  
  3. Using the same pan as above, reduce heat to medium low and add the shallot.  Cook, stirring often, until softened and translucent (about 4-5 minutes).  Turn off heat, add chopped poblanos and cheeses and stir to incorporate.   
  4. Place baking dish in preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Garnish with the chorizo you rendered earlier and serve immediately with tortilla chips or soft tortillas.
  5. Enjoy!

*Note: To roast poblanos – using either an open flame on a gas stove, a hot barbecue grill, or an oven preheated to broil, roast peppers until most of the skin is charred.  Transfer hot charred peppers to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave for about 10 minutes to steam and loosen the skins.  Unless you like charred pepper skins wiggling their way under your fingernails, use paper towels to gently wipe them away.  Split each pepper in half lengthwise, remove seeds, and chop.  Be careful not to rub your eyes or any sensitive areas (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) until you’ve washed your hands – poblanos have a bit of heat to them.  Ps. this technique works for all peppers.


Halibut Tacos with Green Apple Slaw
Makes 8 tacos


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Ingredients
  • 1 lb halibut filets, skinless
  • 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 4 turns freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped/pressed with garlic press
  • ½ tsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 orange, juice and zest
  • 2 limes, juice and zest 
  • 1 green apple, peeled and sliced into matchsticks 
  • 1 Cup    purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 2 pinches cinnamon
  • 8 corn or flour tortillas

Garnishes:    
  • avocado, sliced
  • cotija cheese, finely crumbled
  • green onion, sliced thinly
  • cilantro (if it doesn’t taste like soap to you & your guests)
  • sour cream/crema
  • lime wedges

Directions
  1. To prepare the green apple slaw: Into a medium-sized bowl (one with enough room to toss slaw ingredients without making a mess all over your countertop), add the lime juice, zest, and apple.  Toss well to coat the matchsticks with lime juice and prevent browning from oxidization.  Add purple cabbage, salt, sugar, chili powder and cinnamon and toss well to incorporate.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to marinate.     
  2. To prepare the halibut, slice filets lengthwise to make 8 pieces (approximately 1-inch in width) and transfer to a non-reactive dish (glass, ceramic, plastic).  Add the grapeseed oil, salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, chili powders, orange juice and zest and use clean hands to toss and coat filets with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate up to 1 hour to marinate.  
  3. Remove halibut and slaw from fridge and leave at room temperature while the grill is preheating.  If using a barbecue, preheat over medium-high (about 425F); once heated use tongs and oiled
  4. To cook halibut, place filets onto the preheated grill, and cook approximately 3-4 minutes per side, just until opaque in the center.  Grilling tips: leave enough space between each filet so that you can easily get in there with a spatula when it’s time to flip.  Don’t move the filets until they have fully cooked on each side, otherwise they will stick and fall apart.  Halibut is a flaky fish, so be sure to use a wide and flat spatula for easy maneuvering.  
  5. When it’s time to eat, quickly warm tortillas on the hot grill, in a dry non-stick pan on the stove, or in the microwave, and hold warm by wrapping them in a kitchen towel.  To assemble tacos place a slice or two of avocado onto each tortilla, add a piece of grilled halibut, top with slaw, cotija, green onion, cilantro (optional), and sour cream.  Serve with lime wedges.  
  6. Enjoy! 

Pulled Chicken Flautas
Makes 10, using 6” tortillas


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Ingredients
  • 5 Tbsp aji panca sauce * 
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 3 Cups chicken, pulled from a cooked store-bought rotisserie chicken
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Cup    white cheddar cheese, mild, grated
  • 10 flour tortillas
  • 10 toothpicks, for securing tortillas
  • 1 ½ Cups canola oil, for frying, more or less as needed
  • ½ Cup     tomatillo sauce or tomatillo salsa
  • ½ Cup     sour cream

Directions
  1. Into a large bowl, add the aji panca sauce and honey.  Stir to combine and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, add the tomatillo sauce and sour cream.  Stir well to combine and refrigerate until service.
  3. To prepare pulled chicken use a knife to separate 2 or 3 parts from the chicken – say, two breasts and a leg, or whichever are preferred (any remaining chicken can be refrigerated for another use).  Remove the skin and bones from the pieces of chicken that have been separated and discard.  Place the boneless and skinless pieces of chicken into the bowl and use two forks or clean hands (I find hands to be most efficient) to shred the meat into small, fine bits.  Stop when you have 3 cups of pulled chicken and add to the bowl with the panca sauce.  Stir to combine and set aside.
  4. Preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Once heated, add oil, onion, chili powder and garlic.  Sauté 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant.  Allow to cool to room temperature before adding to the chicken mixture.  Add grated cheese and stir well to combine all together.  (Note: filling can be made a day or two in advance, covered, and refrigerated.
  5. To prepare flautas, preheat oven to 225F.  Also, fill a high-sided skillet with enough canola oil to rise 1.5-inches up the sides and set over medium heat.  Use a candy thermometer to measure the oil temperature; it will be ready for frying once it reaches 350F.  Alternatively, drop a small piece of bread into the oil to gauge the temperature; you’ll know that it is ready for frying when small, uniform bubbles swarm the bread and it gently turns golden brown.  (Note: use a skillet that is 10-inches or smaller, to minimize the amount of oil needed).  
  6. To assemble flautas, scoop ¼ cup of the chicken mixture onto each flour tortilla.  Shape into a log shape just off the centre of each, leaving space at the end for folding.  Roll each tortilla tightly, folding in the ends, and secure with a toothpick.  Gently place into the preheated oil, no more than 2 at a time, and fry until golden brown on all sides using tongs to turn them. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking tray and into the preheated oven to hold warm.  Repeat this process until all flautas are fried.  Serve hot out of the oven with the tomatillo sauce for dipping.
  7. Enjoy!

*Note: Aji panca is a type of dried chili pepper from South America, most commonly Peru.  The peppers are dark red in colour and have a smoky, fruity taste with just a touch of heat.  It’s easily found in sauce form at Latin grocery stores, in the Latin foods aisle at larger grocers, and online.  


Cheaters’ Fried Ice Cream
Makes 4 balls


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Ingredients
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream, full fat (see note below)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 Cup corn flakes cereal, crushed into fine crumbs
  • 1/3 Cup salted butter

Garnishes:    
  • chocolate syrup
  • cajeta, warmed for easy drizzling
  • whipped cream

Directions
  1. Prepare a baking tray for the freezer: ensure that there is room for it to lay flat so that the ice cream scoops don’t roll around, and line the tray with plastic wrap. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop 4 large balls of ice cream and place them onto the tray.  Work quickly to prevent melting.  Immediately transfer them to the freezer and leave to harden for 1-2 hours.  
  2. For the crumb coating, preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat and melt the butter, or place in a microwave for a few seconds until melted.  Next, add the cinnamon, graham and corn flake crumbs to a bowl and stir to combine.  Add the melted butter and stir to combine.  Set aside.  
  3. Once the ice cream balls are well frozen, roll them in the buttered crumb mixture until well coated using your hands to pack them.  Work quickly to prevent melting.  If serving immediately, transfer cherries each to a serving bowl and garnish as desired.  Otherwise, cover the tray with a fresh sheet of plastic wrap, place the coated ice cream balls onto the tray, and re-freeze until service.
  4. Enjoy!

*Note: It is important to use real, authentic ice cream for this recipe.  Otherwise, the balls won’t be solid and hold their shape.  Check ingredient labels and choose a brand that contains the good stuff: milk, cream, eggs, and sugar, rather than unpronounceable modifications of those ingredients.  


Blueberry Sangria
Serves 4-6 (or 2, depending on the type of day you’re having)

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Ingredients
  • 1 Cup    fresh blueberries, reserving a handful for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ Cup     orange liqueur
  • 1 bottle white wine (Spanish Rioja, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio are my favourites)
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
  • ½ orange, thinly sliced into rounds
  • ice cubes, for serving (optional)
  • carbonated soda water, for topping off sangria glasses at table

Directions
  1. Set aside a handful of the blueberries for garnishing glasses to serve.  Using a jar and a muddling tool, a blender, or a food processor, process the remaining blueberries and sugar together until thoroughly smashed. 
  2. In a pitcher, combine the blueberry puree, orange liqueur, wine, lemon and orange slices.  Stir well to combine and chill until ready to serve.
  3. To serve, add a few ice cubes to each glass, if using.  Spoon citrus slices into glasses, adding a few of the reserved fresh blueberries to each, and top with the blueberry wine mixture.  Top each with a splash of soda and serve.
  4. Enjoy!
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