FOOD WISE: Appetizers for Cinco de Mayo



iStock_000016484403XSmallRecently, I was asked to do chef demos in one of the model homes at this year’s Tour of Homes. If you aren’t familiar with this event, each year area home builders use this weekend to showcase the finest examples of their workmanship and the homes they offer. All the tricks are pulled out of the hat for decor, furnishings and entertainment. It’s the ultimate open house! For folks like me, it’s where I spend a weekend thinking about what I might do if I won the lottery (have to play to win, folks, which I don’t) and pick up decorating ideas from the area’s best interior designers. Anyway, this will be a weekend for me to cook in a top-of-the-line dream kitchen. Score!

The homebuilders for this event have asked me to focus on appetizer and dessert ideas for Cinco de Mayo. From my perspective, this is awesome! There are just so many options so I can really let my imagination go wild. In case you are planning your own Cinco de Mayo soiree, I’ve included the appetizer recipes I’ve come up with for my demos. I hope you enjoy them and if you’re looking for something to do the weekend of May 18th, stop by and see me at the Pflugerville section of the tour. I’ll see you in the kitchen!


Chicken Empanadas

with Chipotle Crema

(the empanadas can be assembled ahead of time and frozen for up to a month)


For the chicken stuffing:

2 pounds cooked shredded chicken

3 cups warm water

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup pecan pieces

In a large skillet, combine the chicken, 1 cup of the water, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat 5-6 minutes, until thoroughly heated through. Add onion, tomatoes and bell pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of water and simmer for about 8 minutes, until thickened. Add raisins and pecans.


For the Empanadas:

(If you don’t want to make the dough, you can use ready-made roll out pie dough)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled

3/4 cup warm water

1 1/2 cups chicken stuffing from recipe above

1/8 cup finely chopped green olives

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the shortening and pulse the food processor several times until a course meal forms. Add the water and pulse several more times until the dough begins to form a ball. Divide the dough into 10 pieces and roll each piece with your hands into a ball roughly the size of a golf ball. If you are using ready-made roll out pie dough, skip this step.

2. On a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough into a 4-inch circle. If you are using ready-made roll out pie dough, unroll the dough and cut circles with a 4-inch circle cutter. Put about 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture and 1 teaspoon of the olives on one side of each round. Fold the other half of the dough over to make a half-moon shaped turnover. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal.

3. Arrange the empanadas on a greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm with chipotle crema.


For the Chipotle Crema:

4 oz Mexican crema or sour cream

1 chipotle pepper with a couple tablespoons of the sauce it comes in

salt to taste

Finely chop the chipotle. Mix with the crema in a bowl. Add chipotle sauce and salt to taste.


Jerk Pork, Pineapple and Pepita Stuffed Jalapeños with Habanero Saffron Cream

12 large jalapenos

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons diced fresh pinepple

2 tablespoons toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/4 cup sweet white wine such as riesling

1/2 cup beef stock

1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

12 ounces Jerked Pork (recipe follows)

1 teaspoon minced, fresh basil

1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the jalapenos on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, until the skin of the peppers are blistered and blackened. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees. Let the peppers cool until you can pick them up. Leaving the stem in tact, peel off the skin. Then make a slit down the side of the pepper and carefully remove the seeds. Keep the peppers warm in the 200 degree oven until ready to fill.

2. Heat the butter in a skillet and saute the onion, garlic, and bell peppers over medium heat until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in pineapple and pepitas. Add the wine and cook until the mixture reduces and becomes thickened. Add the stock, brown sugar and vinegar, and cook until the liquid is syrupy, about 7 minutes. Add the jerked pork and just heat through. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper.

3. Remove the chiles from the oven and carefully stuff with the pork mixture, taking care not to overfill. leave the chiles open to expose the stuffing. Top with habanero-saffron cream.


For the Habanero-Saffron Cream

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 habanero chile, seeded and diced

1/2 cup sour cream

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the saffron and habanero, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and let infuse for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture into a mixing bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Whisk in the sour cream.


For the Jerked Pork:

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

1/2 teaspoon chopped sage

1 teaspoon cayenne powder

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup diced onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 habanero chile, seeded and minced

1 pork tenderloin, 12-14 ounces, trimmed of fat

1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the liquid ingredients and add the onion, garlic and habanero. Mix thoroughly. Place the tenderloin in a roasting pan. Pour the marinade over the meat. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.

2. Remove the pork from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Grill the pork for 12 to 15 minutes, turning every 4 to 5 minutes to ensure even cooking, until its internal temperature reaches 160-170 degrees on a meat thermometer. Baste with marinade every few minutes. Remove the pork from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Dice the meat and set aside.