If you’re planning to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a homemade feast, think authentic.
To help you out, we are sharing our favorite Test Kitchen-approved recipes for the holiday: one steak taco and two tasty tostada dishes.
Serve the tacos in soft or hard shells. To make your own hard shells, heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat. Using long tongs, place the tortilla in the hot oil and fold it over. Hold it a few seconds until one side is crisp. Turn over and fry the other side until crisp. To make tostada shells, brush white or yellow tortillas with some oil. Place them on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven until crisp.
Tacos are the ultimate Mexican street food with endless filling options: marinated and grilled, beef, pork, chicken or fish. For toppings, go for the cheese if you like, but chopped cilantro and onions and a few slices of radishes is more like it. Tostada, also considered Mexican street food, means “toasted” in Spanish, and any baked or fried tortilla can be classified as such.
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And, of course, a Cinco de Mayo celebration would not be complete without the ultimate margarita and a big bowl of guacamole. Both are musts for the holiday that celebrates the Mexican victory over the French in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. See accompanying recipes for making both.
SKIRT STEAK FROM ZACATECAS
Makes: 8 tacos / Preparation time: 40 minutes (plus overnight marinating)
Total time: 1 hour
1 pound skirt steak or flat iron steak, silver skin and most of the fat trimmed away, or any other thin piece of steak
8 to 10 cloves garlic, roasted (see note)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon red chile powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground, or 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup corn or other vegetable oil
2 tablespoons red chile sauce
1 teaspoon chipotle purée
8 (5 1/2-inch) soft corn tortillas
Salsa, radishes, lime wedges, finely shredded green cabbage, chopped onions for garnish
Pound the meat with a butcher’s mallet until it is a uniform 1/4 inch thick.
In a large bowl, combine the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, red chile powder, kosher salt, pepper, cumin, onion powder, cilantro, oil, and the red and chipotle chile sauces to make a marinade. Rub the mixture over the meat, cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator in the refrigerator or you can marinate just an hour or so.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Season the meat with additional salt and pepper as you throw it on the grill. Grill the meat over medium-high heat, flipping it once during cooking, 6 minutes total. Remove the meat from the heat and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips or 1/4-inch dice.
To serve, lay the tortillas side by side, open face and overlapping on a platter. Divide the filling equally between the tortillas, and top with salsa and garnishes. Grab, fold and eat.
Cook’s note: To dry-roast the garlic, place unpeeled garlic cloves in a heavy skillet over low heat. Cook until softened, about 30 to 40 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Or roast in a preheated oven until soft — about 20 to 30 minutes. When done, the garlic will be soft, creamy and sweet, and soft enough to slip out of the skin.
169 calories (38 percent from fat), 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 12 g carbohydrates, 14 g protein, 174 mg sodium, 32 mg cholesterol, 30 mg calcium, 2 g fiber.
Adapted from “Tacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes” by Mark Miller (Ten Speed Press, $21.95). Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
SPICY SHRIMP TOSTADAS
Makes: 12 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 1 hour
3 dried ancho chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 limes), plus wedges for serving, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large clove garlic, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano if desired)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 large avocados
4 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts separated)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
12 corn tostadas
Sour cream and diced tomato, for topping
Use scissors to cut the chile peppers open to remove the stems and seeds. Tear the chiles into big pieces.
Toast the chiles in a dry skillet over medium heat, turning often, until they soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover with hot water; let sit 15 minutes.
Transfer the chiles and 3 tablespoons of the soaking water to a blender. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, garlic, oregano, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and salt; purée until almost smooth. Toss with the shrimp in a large bowl; refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.
Halve and pit the avocados; scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash. Mix in the white part of the green onions, 11/2 tablespoons lime juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, the cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until just opaque, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and drizzle with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon lime juice.
Spread the mashed avocado mixture on the tostadas. Top with the shrimp, some sour cream, diced tomato and the remaining green onion. Serve with lime wedges.
219 calories (50 percent from fat), 12 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 15 g carbohydrates, 13 g protein, 284 mg sodium, 76 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber.
Adapted from the Food Network magazine, May 2014 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
Serves: 12 / Preparation time: 15 minutes (plus marinating time) / Total time: 1 hour
8 red potatoes cut into 1/2-inch squares
1 cup pineapple vinegar or mild cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed Mexican oregano
1 medium red onion, sliced paper thin
2 medium allspice berries
1 large package of sturdy tostadas
1 cup refried beans, either pinto or black, warmed
2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced into medium slices
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, sliced thin
1 cup Mexican sour cream, or American sour cream slightly diluted with milk
1 small can of pickled jalapeño or serrano peppers
Place the potatoes in a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil until tender. Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, oregano, onion, salt and allspice berries. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and toss to coat. Let set for about 2 hours.
To assemble the tostadas: Remove the potatoes from the vinaigrette and be sure to remove and discard the allspice berries. Spread the tostadas with a thin layer of warm beans, then drained potatoes, tomato slices, avocado slices, sour cream and a sprinkle of salt. Top with pickled jalapeños.
288 calories (43 percent from fat), 14 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 36 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 144 mg sodium, 13 mg cholesterol, 60 mg calcium, 5 g fiber.
From Maria Elana Rodriguez, Allen Park. Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
5 THINGS ABOUT THE AVOCADO
Avocados take center stage on Cinco de Mayo, especially in making guacamole.
Here’s five things to know about the avocado:
1. It’s a tropical fruit — although commonly referred to and used as a vegetable. It has a smooth and buttery texture.
2. It’s got lots of good fat — the monounsaturated kind that is said to help lower LDL (lousy) cholesterol and improve HDL (happy) cholesterol.
3. It’s low in calories. One serving, or about 3 slices, has about 50 calories, according to the California Avocado Commission.
4. It doesn’t ripen on the tree, but rather when once it’s picked. A ripe avocado yields to gentle pressure and its skin is pebbly and purplish-black. An unripe avocado has a pebbly skin, but is hard and green.
5. To slice an avocado, insert a knife until it reaches the seed. Cut around the seed, rotating the avocado with one hand and holding the knife with the other. Turn the avocado by a quarter, and cut it in half lengthwise again. Rotate the avocado halves in your hands and separate the quarters. Remove the peel from quarters and then slice or dice the avocado.
TO MAKE GUACAMOLE
Here’s a basic guacamole recipe that yields about 3 cups:
Scoop out the flesh of 3 avocados into a medium serving bowl. Sprinkle with lime juice and mash the avocado with a fork. Add 2 garlic cloves, peeled, ends removed, pressed, 1/2 cup diced tomato, 1 small chopped sweet onion, 1 small chopped jalapeño pepper, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped, 1 teaspoon salt or to taste and, if desired, 1 teaspoon favorite chili powder. Mix thoroughly. Serve with tortilla chips.
HOW TO MAKE A CLASSIC MARGARITA
Place coarse salt on a plate. Rub the rim of a cocktail or margarita glass with a lime wedge. Gently roll in the coarse salt and set aside.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour in 1 1/2 ounces tequila, 1/2 ounce triple sec, 1 ounce of lime juice and 1 ounce of fresh orange juice. Give it a shake and strain into a glass.