Friday, March 13, 2009

Without Further Ado(bo)

We recently had our friends, Jeff and Krista, over for a mini-Mexican Fiesta. It was a great excuse to:
  1. Cook fun things
  2. Use some of the myriad Mexican-y things we had (cilantro, tomatillos, avocado and various other veggies)
  3. See Jeff and Krista (most importantly, of course!)

This was the first time he and I had tried to make a big dinner involving people other than ourselves and my kitty on a weeknight, and believe me, we cut it close! Even though it was a fairly easy meal to prepare, we were relieved when they called and said they'd be a few minutes late (picking up a tres leches cake- mmmm...) so we had time to finish some things up.

On the Menu:


  • Chris's Frozen 'Ritas (recipe soon to come!)
  • Sol (my favorite Mexican beer)


  • Traditional (read: the way I always make it, therefore it's "traditional") Guacamole (recipe below)
  • Charred Tomatillo Guacamole
  • Fresh Salsa
  • Pepita/Cilantro Pesto-Marinated Shrimp, Avocado, and Chipotle Tostada Bites (recipe below)



  • Tres Leches Cake (courtesy of our lovely guests!)

Everything turned out well! Some pictures of the final products:

Chris's Frozen 'Ritas

Clockwise from Left: Traditional Guacamole, Jeff's Hand, Fresh Salsa, Charred Tomatillo Guacamole

Pepita/Cilantro Pesto-Marinated Shrimp, Avocado, and Chipotle Tostadas

Chicken Tamale Casserole
Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the beans and tres leches... Blame it on the Fabulous 'Ritas?

Here're the recipes and reviews:

Claire's Traditional Guacamole
I make this differently every time, with no real recipe, but I'll try to hit the high notes. I prefer my guac chunky, so I try not to mash it up much:
  • 3 large avocados
  • 1-2 large tomatoes, liquid drained, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves roughly chopped or torn (I like big pieces of cilantro!)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tsp salt (I prefer more)
  • freshly ground black pepper to-taste

Combine chopped tomatoes, cilantro, chili powder, garlic powder and cayenne. When you're ready almost ready to serve, dice avocado into large chunks and mix it in, followed by the lime juice, salt and pepper. Voila! Serve with tortilla chips.

On a side note- I grew up eating everything (queso aka cheese dip, guacamole, etc) with Fritos, and was shocked to see that the world outside of my family didn't follow suit! Now I'm comfortably acclimated to using tortilla chips, instead, but still like to sneak a thick, crunchy, salty, scoopy Frito in every once in a while.

Verdict: The collective group couldn't decide if we liked this one or the tomatillo guac better. I always love my guac, so maybe I'm a bit biased- but it was awesome!

Charred Tomatillo Guacamole

We pretty much followed the recipe exactly on this one. It's always fun to char things... at least to me. Hopefully I'm not alone in that penchant.

Verdict: Like I said, I'm biased towards my simple, chunky guacamole. This was a nice change, though! It was a bit spicier and a little more smooth than mine. I added more salt to it, and that seemed to intensify the flavors.

A word of caution about the recipe, though- Make sure you pick out the tomatillo skins after smushing them into your guac. I noticed a few of them hanging out in the dip, and fished them out. I can imagine that it would be a little bit of an awkward maneuver to pull one of those babies (they stay in-tact!) out of your mouth. Ew.

Fresh Salsa

The only changes we made to the original recipe were:

  • We chunked about a 3/4 of the recipe into the food processor for a bit, just to give the salsa a little more interest (smooth vs. chunky).
  • I used 2 jalapenos instead of serranos- Maybe it would've been better with the heat of the serranos? As it was, I didn't think it was very spicy at all.


This... this was just ok. Yes, it was nice and fresh, but I would've liked more depth of flavor. I thought maybe it should sit longer, but when I dug into leftovers the next day, the only change I noted was that the color was a but muted. Everything said and done, though, I probably won't make it again.

Pepita/Cilantro Pesto-Marinated Shrimp, Avocado, and Chipotle Tostada Bites

These little mouthfuls (the title alone is a mouthful!) were my attempt to copy ZTejas's Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites. They definitely weren't a perfect copy, but they were still pretty tasty:


  • 2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 c fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbs lime juice
  • 1 small can chipotle adobo puree
  • 1 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and divided (pepitas- found in the produce section of my HEB grocery)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • guacamole (I just used some of my Traditional Guacamole)
  • 10 mini round tostada chips (I used Tostito's brand)

Preheat broiler.

Combine cilantro through lime juice, plus 2 Tbs chipotle and 1 cup pumpkin seeds in food processor; pulse until combined. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream while blending until desired consistency is reached. Don't add too much or it will over-power the flavor of the herbs! Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place shrimp in oven-safe dish in one layer. Cover with pesto and marinate for 15 - 30 minutes. Broil shrimp and marinade, uncovered, 5-8 minutes, or until pink and curly.

Assemble: Top each tostada with a spoonful of guacamole. Dollop a bit of chipotle adobo puree on top of the guac, and top it with one shrimp. Sprinkle with reserved pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

Verdict: These were good, but not exactly as I'd hoped. Next time, I'll reduce the olive oil in the pesto (like I said, it easily over-powers the herbs), and add a serrano chile to the pesto. They were a little bland, but still seemed indulgent and fancy. Make sure you give them a good-sized dollop of the chipotle adobo sauce on top of the guac, as we couldn't really taste that layer. I'm glad I made them!

Chicken Tamale Casserole

We followed this recipe pretty closely, with just the following modifications:

  • We used full-fat milk/cheese and regular eggs- it was what we had on-hand.
  • We added about double the amount of enchilada sauce that the recipe called for- it still wasn't enough!
  • We omitted the sour cream- just forgot!

Verdict: I'm not sure what to think- it had potential. All in all, it was easy and satisfying, but I found the sweetness of the cream-style corn to be a little distracting. And, as I mentioned, it was a bit dry. Next time, I'd add even more enchilada sauce, nix the cream-style corn and just use regular canned corn, and add the dollop of sour cream. Those aught to fix the only issues I had with the dish.

Black Beans with Cilantro

Pretty straight-forward, here, kids:

  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, torn or chopped

Mix it all in a pot and simmer until you're ready to eat! We topped it (even though we forgot about the tamale casserole) with a good spoonful of sour cream.

Verdict: They were tasty and super-simple! The side went really well with the casserole, too. Mexican rice would've been carb overload.

There you have it. A full-on mexican fiesta.



1 comment:

  1. This dinner was awesome! I didn't absolutely LOVE the Tamale Casserole, but you can't go wrong with me and Mexican Food.

    As for my Family's Margarita recipe, good look trying to find it on here! That thing is locked up in the Family Vault!