Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

So I think it is no secret by now that Mr. Pea loves Mexican food.  So  do you think it was any question that we had to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the best way possible, a Mexican fiesta of course!  We have been planning this for a while, and have been really excited to share our cooking skills with our friends.  The fiesta was a blast we had so much fun and the food turned out great! I think we will definitely have to have  another fiesta next year!

The first thing I want to talk about is the tequila we had, it is called Clase Azul and is the best tequila I have ever had! Mr. Pea brought this bottle  back  from Arizona were it is the only place we have found they sell it in the US. They come in hand painted bottles  and each bottle is unique to its own.  I am surprised  that  this bottle has lasted this long, you would  think that too if  you knew  how much Mr. Pea and I love tequila.  We agreed  when we got it though that we would only drink it on special occasions.  But don’t  put this in your margaritas, this is the kind of tequila that  you sip on and enjoy on the rocks, because it is that good.  For making margaritas  make sure you use any kind of clear 100% agave tequila, we used Camarena tequila. As for shots,  I wouldn’t use  the Camarena, I would  suggest using patron or a bottle of 1800.

Tequila

So we started off  with some chips, salsa, guacamole and Ben’s signature Margaritas.  We  made two different kind of salsas, the first one was the tomatillo salsa that  I have shared the recipe for in an earlier post. The second was a  Chipolte  salsa  that was so good that I blinked and it was gone, so unfortunately have no photo of it, but no worries I  will share the recipe.

Mr.Pea’s Signature Margaritas

Ingredients:

(serves 4)
3/4 Cup(s) juice (3 large limes) lime
6 Tablespoon(s) sugar
1 Cup(s) plus 2 tbs tequila blanco
1/4 Cup(s) cointreau
1 1/2 Cup(s) small ice cube

Directions:
Make limeade
Combine the lime juice, sugar and 1 cup water in a glass or plastic pitcher. Cover and refrigerate if not using right away (but no longer than 24 hours).

Finish and serve margaritas
Add the tequila and orange liqueur to the pitcher of limeade. Rub the rims of 6 martini glasses with a lime wedge, then dip them in a dish of coarse salt. In a large shaker, combine the half of the margarita mixture with half of the ice and shake 10 to 15 seconds, then strain into the prepared glasses. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

Chipolte Salsa

Ingredients:

1 Can(s) 14oz with juices diced tomatoes

3 Clove(s) peeled, halved garlic

3 chipotle chiles en adobo

1/2 Teaspoon(s) mexican oregano

2 Tablespoon(s) apple cider vinegar

1 rehydrated Gaujillo chile (rehydrate in water for 30 minutes), stem and seed

1 rehydrated Ancho chile  (rehydrate in water for 30 minutes), stem and seed

* * Note: You can also  use the water used to rehydrate the chiles  to stir into the salsa  to reach the desired consistency.

Directions:

In a food processor or blender, combine, the tomatoes, garlic, chiles, oregano and vinegar. Process until smooth. Pour into a small (2-quart) saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer 15 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in enough water to reach desired consistency. Taste and season highly with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cool, pour into a bottle and refrigerate until needed.

 ** Note: This recipe  can also be thinned out to use as a steak marinade or steak sauce. If used for this,  adding water more water is necessary, to give the sauce the consistency of steak sauce and/or marinade.

Guacamole

Ingredients:

-Frontera Guacamole Starter mix

-1 red onion

-lime juice (this is what keeps it green, not  the pit which most people think)

-cilantro

-4-5  ripe avacados ( The way  to tell if an avacado is ripe is to push with your thumb and if it is soft but not too soft then it it is perfect for making guacamole)

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and mash with a potato masher  and enjoy!

We then  decided  to make two different tacos, we each decided to make one. I  decided to make a New Mexican Chicken Taco with Black Beans and a Pineapple Orange Jalapeno Salsa. While Mr. Pea made a Chile Braised Pork Shoulder Taco with Pickled Red Onions.

New Mexican Chicken Taco with Black Beans and a Pineapple Orange Jalapeno Salsa

Ingredients:

(serves 12)

-2 Packets of Rick Bayless’s Frontera  New Mexico Taco Skillet Sauce  (with roasted tomato and mild red chile)

– 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

– 2 teaspoons of chipolte seasoning ( I used Penzeys chipolte seasoning)

-1 cup of water

Put all the ingredients into a crockpot, give it a little stir to blend the seasoning with the skillet sauce and water. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours ( I think low and slow is always the better choice). When done, the chicken should shred easily when stirred with a fork and/or tongs. When done , to assemble taco heat taco shell in a cast iron skillet, spread a little bit of black beans , place the chicken on top of the beans and then top it off with the Pineapple Orange Jalapeno Salsa.

Pineapple Orange Jalapeno Salsa

2  oranges, segmented and chopped

1/2 cup of pineapple

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1/2 jalapeno, chopped

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro

pinch of salt

**Note:  I usually make this salsa  with blood oranges instead of regular oranges, but they are no longer in season :(.  I usually  use this with fish tacos or even some grilled fish that we make, it makes a good topping for seafood!

Chile Braised Pork Shoulder with Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:

(makes 20 tacos)

•    2 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
•    4 medium dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
•    1/3 cup Lime Juice
•    1/3 cup Orange Juice
•    1/3 cup Olive Oil
•    1 chipotle chile en adobo
•    1 jalepeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped
•    2 bay leaves
•    2 tablespoons cider vinegar
•    1/2 small white onion, roughly chopped (plus a few thinly sliced rings for garnish)
•    3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
•    1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
•    1 teaspoon dried thyme
•    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
•    Pinch of ground cloves
•    1 1/2 tablespoon pork lard or bacon drippings
•    1/2 teaspoon table salt (plus more to taste)
•    3 pounds, boneless pork shoulder
•    Warm corn tortillas
•    Sour cream, hot sauce, pickled red onions, thinly sliced radishes and cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
•    Place the dried chiles in a small bowl, cover with very warm water and let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving 2/3 cup of the soaking liquid, then transfer the rehydrated chiles and the reserved liquid to a blender.
•    Pulverize the bay leaves in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and add them to the blender along with the vinegar, onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, jalepeno, allspice and cloves.  Process to a smooth puree, adding water if needed to keep the mixture moving through the blades.  Press through a medium mesh strainer into a bowl.
•    Set a large, 6-quart pot with a lid over medium-high heat and add the pork lard.  When very hot and almost smoking, pour in the puree and stir constantly until it sears, concentrates and darkens into a spicy-smelling paste, about 5 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat and season the sauce with salt.
•    Preheat the oven to 325°.  Cut the pork shoulder into slabs about 3-inches thick.  Lay the meat into the pot with the chile paste, then flip it over to cover evenly, spooning on more sauce over the top to coat the pork well.  Pour 1/2 cup water around the meat, cover tightly and place in the oven.  Roast for 2 1/2 hours, basting the meat every 30 minutes with the liquid and rendered fat that accumulates.  If all of the moisture evaporates, feel free to add more water to the plan to allow you to continue basting. Let the pork rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.
•    Shred or pull the meat apart into-bite size pieces using two forks.  Toss the meat to incorporate any of the leftover chile braising liquid, check for seasoning and add more salt to taste.
•    Place the chile pork in a warm bowl and serve alongside the warm corn tortillas.  Have your guests assemble their own tacos, adding their own garnishes to taste.

Pickled Red Onions
•    1 Red Onion, thinly sliced
•    ¼ tsp Pepper
•    ¼ tsp Cumin
•    ¼ tsp Mexican dried oregano
•    ¼ tsp Garlic Powder
•    ¼ tsp Salt
•    1/3 cup Cider vinegar
•    2 tbs Lime Juice

•    Blanch the onion slices in salted, boiling water for 45 seconds, then drain and place in a medium container.

•    Combine Lime juice, vinegar and remaining spices then pour over the onions. Add enough water to cover the onions, stir well.

•    Let stand for several hours until onions are bright pink. Covered and refrigerated, these onions will last several weeks.

We also made two side dishes Green Poblano Rice (Arroz Verde al Poblano) and Refried Black Beans.

Green Poblano Rice (Arroz Verde al Poblano)

Ingredients:

(makes 4 servings)

1 2/3 cups chicken broth or water

2 fresh poblano chiles, stems and seeds removed, and roughly chopped

12 sprigs cilantro, plus extra for garnish

Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon if using salted broth, 1 teaspoon if using unsalted or water

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1 cup rice, preferably medium grain

1 small white onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

 Directions:

-In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the broth and chiles, bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer gently over medium to medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the chiles are very soft. Pour the chile mixture into a food processor, add the cilantro (stems and all), and process to a smooth puree. Press through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl and stir in the salt.

-The rice: Wipe the pan clean, add the oil and heat over medium. Add the rice and onion, and cook, stirring regularly, until the rice is chalky looking and the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook a minute longer.

-Add the warm (or reheated) chile liquid to the hot rice pan, stir once, scrape down any rice kernels clinging to the side of the pan, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and check a grain of rice: It should be nearly cooked through. If the rice is just about ready, turn off the heat, re-cover and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes longer to complete the cooking. If the rice seems far from done, continue cooking for 5 minutes or so, retest, then turn off the heat and let stand a few minutes longer. Fluff with a fork, scoop into a warm serving dish, decorate with cilantro sprigs and it’s ready to serve.

Re-fried Black Beans

Ingredients:

-2-3 can of black beans

-1 tablespoon pork lard

-1 tablespoon Penzeys Arizona Dreming seasoning

Directions:

Heat on medium heat and mash with potato masher,  when beans are mashed  and  heated through, stir  and they are ready to serve.

And  we couldn’t leave dessert off the menu, it’s my favorite part (well the baking and decorating part!)

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

Cupcakes-makes 24

 1 box Betty Crocker white cake mix 1 cup bottled strawberry margarita or daiquiri mix1/3 cup vegetable oil1/4 cup tequila3 egg whites or whole eggs Frosting1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar (4 cups)

2 teaspoons of heavy whipping cream

2 to 3 tablespoons bottled strawberry margarita or daiquiri mix

 Garnish

12 slices lime, each cut in half

 HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO EVERYONE! 🙂

Poco Loco

Poco Loco  has been one of Mr. Pea’s favorite restaurants for quite some time, he has been talking about this place what seems like forever. This past week we were actually  in the area so we decided to stop there for dinner. Now I know why he raves abut this place so much, it is really, really good.

 Poco Loco is very unique on the inside, with two round bars  for  you to sit at the counter looking into  the kitchen area, it makes for an interesting dining experience.  I was impressed with the food the moment I walked through the door,  it smelled delicious, and that is usually a good sign  when a restaurant smells  delicious, chances are the food is delicious too! They have a smaller menu  but they have some really great options that you probably won’t find on very many Mexican restaurants menus, like Blue crab quesadilla and  various kinds of fish tacos.

I got  steak tacos, and was even more impressed  when they brought it to me and it was perfectly  cooked steak, usually when I go to a Mexican restaurant they have no clue  how to cook steak tacos and it is always tough and chewy.  They have a very good salsa to go with their chips and salsa they bring to the table,  it is on  the spicy side, so  be careful if spicy is not your thing.  My suggestion when eating Mexican food and you are not in the mood for a margarita of course, is to have a beer called Pacifico. It is light  and refreshing and goes really well with Mexican cuisine.

Poco Loco also has a patio for outdoor dining, I think we might have to go back there  on a nice summer afternoon!

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Sil’s Drive-Thru

Sil’s Drive-Thru  was one of my favorite places in Milwaukee, and I am sad to say that today was its last day open. It is a sad day to know that there will be no more delicious doughnuts, bagels or wasted weiners in my life.  It it located on  the corner of North Avenue and Oakland, just a few steps away from our last apartment, two houses in from what used to be the block where the Pizza Man, Cush and Grecian Delight once were  until a terrible fire took out the whole block.  I feel like this intersection in particular has been hit with some crazy disasters lately,  shortly after  the block burnt down in that terrible fire, Wisconsin was hit hard with some flooding and a massive sinkhole collapsed in the middle of that intersection and with it swallowed up an SUV, luckily everyone got out. I am not saying that Sil’s Drive Thru closing is a disaster, it just is another reason that this intersection is cursed (I am glad we moved when we did).  I am sad that Sil’d Drive Thru will  not be open anymore, it will be missed.

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RIP Sil’s Drive Thru 🙁

The Old German Beer Hall

The Old German Beer Hall  is a popular bar in Downtown Milwaukee, located on Old 3rd Street. Mr. Pea and I have been there  multiple times and every time we go we have a blast.  We often take our friends and  out of town guests to this bar, because well it is a good time and it is not like other bars in Milwaukee.  This bar represents the spirit and tradition of Munich’s legendary Hofbräuhaus, the most famous beer hall in the world. Milwaukee’s Old German Beer Hall offers a glimpse of Bavarian social life, and 400 years of tradition and history. With replica tables and benches from the “Schwemme”, you will feel the connection to the original Munich beer hall. This bar has great beer, but you better put your drinking pants  on because these liters of beer will surely do the trick.

My favorite brew they have is a Hofbräu Hefe Weizen with Rasberry syrup, kind of girly I know but delicious. In my defense  though, when it comes  to drinking  a  liter of beer, I think that qualifies me to be able to hang with the guys.  This was the first wheat beer ever brewed, the standard by which all others judged.  Mr. Pea likes their darker brews though, which I am not particularly fond of, he usually goes with the Hofbräu Dunkel. The Hofbräu Dunkel is a rich walnut Brown color, dark roasted malts and subtle
hops. This beer  is by far one the easiest drinking dark beers in the world. This is historical  standard of  Bavarian beer, the  light lagers came much later.

I usually don’t eat their food  their  but  they do have great food. The Old German Beer Hall serves up traditional Bavarian festival food and specialties. Their menu showcases the world famous Usingers sausage, made daily just across the street. Their giant pretzels are made in Munich with flour from the Royal Bavarian Mill,  if you try one make sure to try it  with Obatzter, the traditional beer hall cheese spread. German food isn’t my favorite, but I have to at least try  to like it. Mr. Pea’s family is  German and they love German food, we go to Germanfest every year  and slowly but surly I am finding things that I can enjoy when we go there.

They also have a dish called Currywurst, which I tried for the first time the last time I went, thanks to a friend of mine  who has traveled to Germany on business a couple of times  and  and he told me I had to try it.  Currywurst is Germany’s popular spicy snack, it is  a sliced sausage  served with a zesty tomato-curry sauce. I was a little weary on trying it though I am not big on spicy foods. This Currywurst turned out to be delicious though,  and a little kick to it  but it had good flavor  to it, it wasn’t just spicy.

The  other reason we like going to the Old German Ber Hall is that  it  is fun,  they usually have a polka band playing and  every so often a guy will blow his horn which stretches as long ad one of the tables.   Also,  there is a really fun game that they have there called ‘Nails’. This  game is where  there is a tree stump  and everyone has a nail,  you pound the nail in just enough to make it stand up on its own. Then everyone takes a turn at hammering their nail in the stump one hit at a time. The person that is the last to get their nail into the stump has to buy a round of beers or shots. If you are buying shots they have this thing called  the ‘Shot-ski’ there, it is basically a ski that has holes drilled in it  to hold shot glasses, and 5 or 6 people line up and  take the shot all at the same time.

So next time you are going out and looking to have a good time, try the Old German Beer Hall  you are guaranteed to have a good time!

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Jambalaya

Jambalaya is one of New Orleans most celebrated dishes.  Mr. Pea loves spicy food and loves when it is jambalaya night in our house.  I myself,  am not  too fond of spicy food,  but I do love the delicious flavors  of a jambalaya, and can tolerate the heat in this dish.  Well, with all the cooking we do in our household, we like to have a few meals a week  that we call “budget friendly meals”. They are just that, meals on a budget, the goal is to spend around $5 for the both of us to eat. I guess I should say  meal and/or meals, because there are usually leftovers when you make Jambalaya.  So  I wanted to share  with you an easy way to make a delicious jambalaya on a budget, thanks to the help of Zatarains  and a couple of extra ingredients  that really help kick it up a notch.

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Jambalaya

Ingredients:

1 Family Size of Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 14oz can of diced tomatoes (liquid drained and reserved)

1 lb. of a smoked sausage, sliced

(1/2 Ib. of shrimp, cooked separately and mixed in at the end-optional)

3 3/4 cups liquid made up of tomato juice from drained can of diced tomatoes combined with chicken stock or water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon cajun seasoning ( we use homemade, but you can use Emril’s Bayou Blast seasoning, Zatarains has their own cajun seasoning and  even Penzeys has a good cajun seasoning as well)

Instructions:

ImageStart with a pan and heat up oil and sausage, this will help render out some of the fat  to coat the vegetables with.

ImageAfter sausage is browned  add in the chopped onions until thy are translucent

ImageMix in the green pepper and then add the garlic until it is fragrant.

ImageAdd in the diced tomatoes

ImageAdd the liquid mixture and cajun seasoning

ImageBring to a boil

ImageAdd in Zatarain’s jambalaya rice and mix from package, bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, stir and serve.

Peter Sciortinos Bakery

Peter Sciortinos Bakery is one of  Mr. Pea and my favorite Saturday morning stops.  Brady street in Milwaukee is one of my favorite places for food. It is ever changing, yet it has some really great places that have been there for years, and have been there for years with good reason. Peter Sciortinos Bakery is a America’s Finest Italian Bakery, at least in my eyes.  At Peter Sciortino’s Bakery, they make all of their products from scratch on a daily basis, this  ensures that everything is fresh.

Some of the great things to get at this bakery is their bread, their Italian hard bread and hard rolls is easily a family favorite.  They even distribute their bread to a few local restaurants,  and when you taste it, you will know why,  it is amazing. They also  have really great doughnuts and pastries, in my opinion  they have the best cheese danish and cruller doughnut I have ever had. They also make fantastic Italian pastries and cookies that I heard are delicious. I have only had the holiday Italian Christmas cookies they make every year, people will wait in line  for these cookies and buy them  by the dozens.  

They don’t just have great bakery items at Sciortinos, they also have really great deli items, like turkey and Swiss cheese.  They also have Mr. Pea’s personal favorite item, the pizza doughs.  These pizza doughs are great, they are $1.50 each and are bagged individually and  you can throw them in the freezer for up to three months, so when you want to make a pizza  you just pop it in the fridge  while  you are at work and by the time you get  home  you are all set to make a delicious homemade pizza.  My homemade pizzas are one of Mr. Pea’s favorite things  that I make,  so I will make one soon and let you all in  on my secrets to both my homemade pizza and calzones, stay tuned.

From their amazingly fresh breads to their delicious Italian pastries, I assure you that you will not find a fresher or better tasting bakery in the Greater Milwaukee area!

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Go to Peter Sciortino’s bakery, help support little places like these that need to be here for generations to come 🙂