Cinco de Mayo!

At the beginning of this year, I wrote down all of my ideas for monthly cooking themes. A few repeats, a few new ideas, but one thing I knew for sure was #mexicanmay – it was my favorite month last year! One topic I’ll dive into later this month is one of my meal prep secrets. Spoiler alert – tacos are on repeat in this house and we never get sick of them. There’s so many ways to make a taco, use up ingredients, prepare ahead, and have variety, yet consistency in your weekly menu. But more on that later! There’s so much more than tacos to get to this month.

First of all, I have to introduce my new sous chef, Jenkins. He was hired to keep my floors clean, but so far, he needs some training. His training means a little bit of time away from the kitchen for me, especially since he likes to bark at pork roast.

Anyway – onto the Mexican fare! I have the longest idea list yet for this month’s theme. Most of the ideas are pretty vague – tacos, enchiladas, guacamole, tortas, etc., and I’ll experience with new varieties of each one, instead of just my go-to tacos.

First, I made these chicken & cream cheese taquitos for a Cinco de Mayo party appetizer and they were a huge hit! Go big or go home – so these are the fried version. To make this recipe super simple, I used an entire rotisserie chicken, shredded. The recipe calls for 6 oz of cream cheese and I used the entire 8 oz brick. With a little extra salsa and shredded cheese, I made enough filling for 24 mini corn tortillas (4″). Measurements do not have to be precise on this type of recipe! I did have to fill each tortilla individually, rather than assemble them all first, and fry each one right away, so this process is a bit tedious (and messy). Once I filled each tortilla, I held it together with my tongs in the oil until it appeared it wasn’t going to unroll. These are best served fresh for a crowd, and were so tasty they didn’t need a dipping sauce. Your stove will be a mess but you won’t even be mad.

For a great mid-week meal, I prepped shredded beef & ancho chile enchiladas during my Sunday cooking-fest. This enchilada recipe has been on my mind for awhile. The recipe calls these a “labor of love,” but honestly, they are pretty easy. Don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you – the only unique items are the dried ancho chiles and the oaxaca cheese – but any shredded cheese would work. One the roast is cooking, it’s hands off. You could even use a crockpot for the beef. I made the beef and the sauce on a Sunday, and assembled and baked a few enchiladas for dinner on Tuesday.

Traditionally, enchiladas are made with corn tortillas. However, no matter how many times I’ve tried, or how warm I keep the tortillas, or how much I dip them in the sauce, they break. So I use flour tortillas. However, flour tortillas can get soggy / gummy if you fill them too far ahead of time. I usually will only fill and bake as many enchiladas I need for one meal. Extra filling and sauce can be froze to assemble later (meal prep hack!) for the freshest ‘ladas possible. There are endless combinations of enchilada filling / sauce / cheese to make this comforting Mexican dish anything but boring.

I love deep fried food (see taquitos above), and there are many Mexican items that fall in this category. Chile rellenos are typically stuffed poblano peppers, dipped in an egg batter and deep fried, with a tomato sauce. I made enough of a mess with the taquitos so I wanted a healthier (although not exactly healthy) baked option. I used this recipe for Chile rellenos casserole, which calls for stuffing roasted poblanos with chorizo and cojita cheese, laying them on a bed of tomato sauce, and baked in egg.

I made half the recipe, and used diced tomatoes (slightly drained) with chiles instead of tomato sauce to make the base. The sauce is simmered until most of the liquid has evaporated, then piled into the bottom of a small casserole dish. After roasting the peppers under the broiler, I put them in a bowl and tightly covered it with plastic wrap. Once cooled, the skin easily came off and the seeds could be removed. While each pepper couldn’t really be stuffed, I held them in my hand to add filling and laid them on top of the tomato sauce. A little egg, flour, and cheese to finish it off.

The salty chorizo and cotija cheese filling with the puffy egg and was a tasty savory combination, with the tomato sauce cutting the saltiness to add a nice flavor.

Now for the empanadas! Empanadas are a pastry with filling, which is common in many types of cuisine. Ravioli, dumplings, peorgi, and pasties are all examples of a similar food – with a dough or pastry and a filling. I chose to alter this recipe for beef & potato empanadas, by using ground turkey instead of beef, and omitting the olives.

Once the empanadas were all filled, I chilled them again (and froze a few extras). Before baking, I beat one egg and glazed the dough to help make a shiny crust!

The recipe includes a sauce for dipping, with mayo, sour cream, lime, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds. I only had sunflower seeds that are probably a hair past their expiration date. While the sauce was decent, it would have been substantially better with pumpkin seeds as suggested. The filling was rich and hearty – which I attribute to the Worchestire sauce and smoked paprika.

While I wouldn’t make empanadas regularly, it was fun to experiment with a new food, and a new ingredient – the masa (corn flour). Much like the enchiladas, a variety of fillings could be used to make your ideal empanada. I have tons of extra filling – that recipe could have been cut in half – that I may even use for enchiladas later this month.

For Cinco de Mayo, I served the chile rellenos casserole, empanadas, guacamole, and margaritas! I’ll share some of my favorite guacamole recipes, along with my meal prep tricks, later this month!

Why yes, I do still have Easter decor on the top with my Cinco de Mayo meal! Empanadas, chile relleno casserole, and a margarita!

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