Cinco de Mayo typically becomes a three day affair for me, and the results are always muy delicioso! I typically go all out with one of my favorite meals, [and fool-proof party ideas] the taco bar. There's just something so gratifying about building your own tacos [it's like having this place in your house- if only!] and I love having an array of toppings to choose from. Though I venture into [grass-fed] beef and tilapia typically, my favorite taco filling has to be my blackened chicken.
Blackened Chicken Tacos
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 3 TBsp. olive oil [vegetable or canola work too- just not extra virgin olive oil since its burning point is too low for this recipe]
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. crushed Aleppo chili
- 1/4 tsp. Ancho chili powder
- Coarse sea or kosher salt [to taste]
- Fresh ground pepper [to taste]
- Large, heavy bottomed skillet
- Fresh lime juice [optional]
Combine the spices in a separate bowl and sprinkle on both sides of chicken, making sure to coat evenly [if this isn't enough, you can easily make more of this spice mixture]. Lightly season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper [you can always add more later]. Heat oil over medium-high until oil gently ripples. [if it's smoking, you've gone too far!] Cook on each side for 4-5 minutes, making sure not to move the chicken during this process- this helps ensure that nice, brown crust- the best part!]
Remove chicken from heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. The only thing left to do is slice it crosswise, or chop into small bites like I did. Though I love pulled chicken, this is not the time for this application, since you want to preserve the integrity of the blackened exterior, and pulling the chicken apart will only result in really tasty fingers, since the spices will end up all over you and not your chicken. Finally, squeeze fresh lime juice over the chicken for an extra bite.
This serves five perfectly, with each person making 2-3 tacos.
The chicken is best served a little warm, so as soon as you've sliced it, get the party started! If you've got some time to kill, just cover the chicken with foil until you're ready to serve. The hit of lime juice should keep it moist. [This chicken is great in anything Mexican inspired- burritos, enchiladas, nachos, quesadillas, you name it.]
My taco bar typically consists of: monterey jack cheese, light sour cream, sliced red onions, diced orange and yellow bell peppers, refried beans, red cabbage, salsa, guacamole
Some other great additions: green onions, cilantro, saffron rice, queso fresco, black beans, sliced or matchsticked radishes
And NOW for my favorite excuse to celebrate Cinco de Mayo: the MARGARITAS. I'm not one to have the salt on the rim of my glass, but there is something so perfect about that salty, tart bite you get from the combination of [good] tequila and fresh limes.
Blue Agave Margaritas
- 1/2 oz. water
- 1/2 oz. 100% pure Blue Agave Nectar [we used this brand]
- 1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice [I bought about 24 limes for the whole weekend!]
- 2 oz. Tequila [I don't drink it very often, but when I do, it's Patron Silver...keepin' it classy]
- Lots of ice
- Cocktail Shaker
Fill the shaker halfway with ice. Combine the water and agave nectar in a jigger [shot glass] and add to the shaker, along with the lime juice and tequila. Shake it up and strain into an ice filled glass. SO simple, but definitely not for the faint-hearted [I've been told to keep these at a maximum of two per night]
Over the course of a proper Cinco de Mayo weekend, I'll put back my fair share of margaritas, so sometimes I'll opt for the mocktail version. I omit the tequila and replace it with a stevia based lemon-lime soda [the same brand's ginger ale also works really well here].