Carnitas de Puerco

(Mexican Tender-Crisp Pork)

May 5: Cinco de Mayo

Many cultures have their version of slow-cooked shredded/pulled meat. Islander grew up eating kalua pua’a in Hawaii, so she already liked the similar carnitas de puerco when we moved to San Antonio, Texas. This Mexican recipe uses spiced pork that is slow cooked until tender, shredded or pulled, then fried to a crisp.

For our simple Cinco de Mayo celebration, we made carnitas for soft tacos. But the meat is versatile in many Mexican dishes—as a filling in tamales, burritos or empanadas or as an entrée with rice and beans.

Cook up some carnitas de puercofor a fun and festive food for Cinco de Mayo.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt/shoulder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (we used Mexican oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (seeds and ribs removed)
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

Line slow cooker with cooking bag (optional). Rinse the pork and pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper all over. In a small bowl, mix the oregano and cumin with the olive oil. Rub the oil mixture over the pork. Place in a slow cooker.

Chop the onions, mince the garlic, chop the jalapeno and cut the orange. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the slow cooker over the pork. Place the orange halves in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Remove from the slow cooker and place on a deep plate. Cool slightly and then shred/pull with fork. In a large skillet or pan, heat the vegetable oil on high. Press a few chunks of shredded pork in the oil and fry until crispy on one side. Drain on paper towels. Serve as a filling or as main dish.

Notes

  • Cinco de Mayo is a minor Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s defeat of the French army during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Although some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate May 5, it is September 16 that is more significant as Mexico’s Independence Day. Many Americans, however, enjoy fiesta foods and the commercialized culture of Cinco de Mayo but this holiday can be a teachable moment about Hispanic history.
  • Traditionally, pork is stewed in its own lard to maintain the moistness in the meat. The fat in the pork butt/shoulder is not trimmed so it can do the same in the slow clooker.
  • Search our blog for more Mexican recipes under the Theme Menus category.

 

Ceviche de Camarones y Mango

Ceviche Shrimp y Mango

May 5: Cinco de Mayo

San Antonio, Texas, is famous for its fiestas. When we lived there for six super happy years, we celebrated by eating many Mexican dishes with our familia and friends, including ceviche, a dish that contains raw seafood “cooked” in citrus, usually limes or lemons, and tossed with tomatoes, onions, jalapeño peppers and cilantro. Since Islander is not too fond of fish, she found a ceviche recipe that contains shrimp cocktail. Mango is added to the mix for a vibrant color and a slightly sweet surprise. Ceviche de camarones y mango reminds us of the confetti inside the cascarones (eggs that we liked to smash especially on unsuspecting people’s heads!). This appetizer can be eaten alone or served with tortilla chips. On Cinco de Mayo, serve ceviche with shrimp and mango for a fun and flavorful fiesta.

Recipe

(Adapted from Whole Foods)

Ingredients

  • 25-30 medium-sized shrimp, raw, thawed, deveined and shelled (we used cooked cocktail shrimp; see Notes)
  • 1 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1-1 ½ cups tomato, diced
  • 1 semi-ripe firm mango, peeled, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3-4 limes, juiced
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Rinse the shrimp and pat dry with paper towels and discard the tails. Cut into ½ inch pieces, reserving a few shrimp to garnish (optional). Chop the onion. Dice the tomatoes. Chop the mango (one cup) and jalapeño pepper.

Ceviche Shrimp y Mango

Place the chopped ingredients in a big bowl. Pour the lime juice over the mixture and combine well. Sprinkle with cilantro and salt and mix again. Cover and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to develop and the citrus from the lime juice acid to “cook” the shrimp. Serve chilled in a margarita glass, garnished with shrimp. Or place in a small dish/bowl surrounded with tortilla chips.

Ceviche Shrimp y Mango

Notes

  • If raw seafood is a concern, replace with ready-to-eat cocktail shrimp.
  • Further the fiesta fun and serve ceviche de camarones y mango on National Shrimp Day on May 10.
  • Search our blog for other Mexican recipes. ¡Viva Fiesta!

Carlota de Limón

Carlota de limon

September 16: Mexican Independence Day

Although Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) is a popular holiday associated with Mexico, el Dieciséis de Septiembre (16th of September) is seen as more important. Whereas May 5 commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over Napoleon’s French troops/invaders in 1862, September 16 marks Mexico’s declaration of independence from Spain in 1810. Either date is cause for celebration, especially in South Texas where we have many Mexican friends and neighbors. From them we have learned a little bit about their Hispanic heritage as well as some of the foods they prepare for special events.

Carlota de limón (also called postre de limón) is one of the quick and easy recipes they have shared with us. It is like a trifle that consists of alternating layers of cookies and a creamy lime filling. This makes for a delicious dessert for Dieciséis de Septiembre and during other Mexican holidays.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup lime juice (from approximately 6-7 fresh squeezed limes)
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 rolls/packages of Maria Mexican cookies
  • sliced limes (optional garnish)

Directions

Juice the limes. Place the juice with the evaporated and condensed milks in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Carlota de limon

In a large glass casserole dish, layer the cookies. Pour 1/3 of the lime-milk mixture over the cookies and spread to cover them. Arrange more cookies on top. Pour another layer of the lime-milk mixture over it and spread to cover them. Arrange the last layer of cookies and finish spreading the lime-milk mixture over it.

Carlota de limon

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight to allow the cookies to soften, the lime-milk mixture to solidify and the flavors to develop. Before serving, garnish with limes (optional). Cut into 24 squares.

Carlota de limon

Notes

  • Some recipes add a cup of softened whipped cream cheese to make the filling fluffier and thicker.
  • Pipe a pretty border with whipped cream to decorate the edges (optional).
  • Happy Hispanic Heritage Month to all our friends from Latin America!

Cactus Meringue Cookies

Cactus Meringue Cookies

May 5: Cinco de Mayo

When Islander and her brother were in Arizona for a work conference a few years ago, they took a break from some of the sessions and went sightseeing in Phoenix, Sedona and the Grand Canyon. They enjoyed the drive through the desert and imagined that the saguaro cacti were waving to them! The tour guide even stopped along the way and picked a prickly pear for us as a succulent snack.

Some cactus plants are edible and are characteristic of Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. Below are a few nopales photographed outside of Islander’s brother’s house and some being sold at a grocery store in Texas.  

Nopales

However, it is the distinctive saguaro shape that inspired us to create cute cactus cookies for a fiesta. We also make cactus meringue cookies for Cinco de Mayo celebrations! Olé.

Recipe

(Based on our Meringue Skeleton Bones post)

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar (granulated white)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (we used Mexican vainilla)
  • green food coloring
  • green sugar sprinkles
  • pink fondant flowers (see a similar tutorial here or here)
  • pink tube frosting
  • yellow tube frosting

Directions

With a handmixer or in a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and pinch of salt until fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until shiny.

Cactus Meringue Cookies

Stir in the vanilla. Mix in the food coloring. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip with the meringue. Trace the cactus pattern on top of a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Start tracing with the cactus’ left arm, then the right arm and finish off with a downward middle stroke.

Cactus Meringue Cookies

Remove the pattern from underneath the parchment paper. Sprinkle with green sugar. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees F for an hour. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues to dry for another hour. Remove from the oven and carefully peel off the meringues from the parchment paper.

Cactus Meringue Cookies

Make the fondant flowers and let dry. Attach to the meringues with a dab of pink frosting. Finish by piping a small round center with yellow frosting. Seal in an airtight container in a single file. When ready to serve, arrange in single file on a platter. Avoid stacking them or the meringues might stick to each other. Yield: Approximately 2 ½-3 dozen cactus meringue cookies.

Cactus Meringue Cookies

Notes

  • Download our cactus pattern here.
  • Saguaro cactus flowers, when in bloom at night, are white and yellow. But we colored our fondant flowers in the shade of prickly pear pink.
  • Humidity affects this recipe. Leave the cactus meringue cookies in a warm oven for a dry, crisp dessert. Otherwise, our friends have told us that the soft meringues still taste delicious as they melt in your mouth like a marshmallow.
  • Muchas gracias to Phyllis S. for helping to make the fondant flowers for our cactus meringue cookies. For a review of making fondant flower cutouts, please see our posts here or here.

Chicken Mole

Chicken Mole

May 5: Cinco de Mayo

We moved into our Texas home on Cinco de Mayo (May 5). When Islander’s parents came to visit and see our new place, our friends’ mom, Señora J, cooked an entire Mexican meal to welcome them! The main dish was a very tasty and tender chicken mole (pronounced MOH-leh), which she served with rice, beans, tortillas and pan dulce (sweet bread). She must have spent all day in the kitchen and we appreciate her generosity and hospitality! Although she has admitted to using mole sauce from a jar on occasion, she has found other shortcuts to preparing chicken mole, such as using a slow cooker. This blog recipe post features the crock pot method for easier cooking.

Recipe

(Inspired by Señora J)

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thighs (boneless and skinless)
  • 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 14-ounce can of chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablet of Mexican chocolate
  • sesame seeds
  • cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

Mix the tomato paste, bouillon, broth, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and salt together in the slow cooker. Stir in the peanut butter. Place the chicken thighs in the slow cooker. Add the chocolate tablet. Cover and cook on high for at least four hours or on low for at least six hours.  Check halfway to see if the chocolate tablet is melted. Stir the sauce. When cooked, mix well until the chicken is shredded. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro.

Chicken Mole

Notes

  • Look for Mexican chocolate tablets in either the Latino food aisle or hot chocolate drink packets section of the grocery store. The tablets are not sweet like candy. It also has a hint of cinnamon flavor.
  • For a hot and spicy dish, add more chili powder or a can of diced tomatoes with jalapeños.