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How to prepare a Cinco de Mayo celebration feast

Ranji McMillan



How to prepare a Cinco de Mayo celebration feast

If you're like us, you know there are few days that are more fun to celebrate than Cinco de Mayo. Being that we're Southern, it's only natural that we light up the kitchen (well, without the fireworks, of course) with some of the deliciously vibrant dishes our neighbors in the deeper South have mastered and shared.

We do, of course, want you to be properly prepared, so we've curated 20 surprisingly simple recipes that you'll have no trouble pulling off for your fiesta. Especially if, like us, you also enjoy a Cinco de Mayo margarita or two. Don't worry — we wouldn't dare give you a Cinco recipe roundup without including a margarita recipe too. Enjoy!

Yucatan-Style Ceviche with Avocado
It's not as tricky as you might think to make ceviche, but don't take any shortcuts with your fish. You’ll want to find the freshest fish of the highest quality available, such as bass, snapper, grouper or halibut. This is also not the time to cut corners with bottled citrus juices. Buy your own limes and juice them — the difference is very noticeable.
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Shrimp Ceviche
If you want to steer away from fish and keep it pretty simple, this shrimp based ceviche is perfect. Made with a combination of sweet, juicy shrimp, citrus juices, ripe mango pieces and sliced avocado, this ceviche variation will make you feel like you're on a tropical beach. 
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Grilled Pineapple Salsa
While we are huge fans of tradition salsa, this grilled pineapple version kicks it up a notch. Made with red bell peppers, jalapeño and an almost absurd amount of lime juice, this is the recipe to pull out when you want to make an impression. The sweetness and acidity of pineapple makes it a perfect partner for grilled meats, poultry and fish. Try this salsa on tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, burgers or with your favorite seafood.
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Chipotle Cauliflower Tacos
Want in on all the festive fun but prefer to keep it meatless? These incredible smokey chipotle roasted cauliflower tacos will do the trick. For this dish, cauliflower florets are roasted at a high temperature, coated in a thick chipotle and garlic paste. Corn tortillas and charred poblano peppers help round out the tacos and give them a flavorful kick. A squeeze of lime ties all these flavors together, and in 25 minutes tops, you have a mouthwatering meal fit for a fiesta. 
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Bourbon Lime Chicken Tacos
Bourbon can provide a potent kick to marinade, and this recipe will liven up your chicken with rich flavors that blend superbly with sweet honey and fresh lime juice. By adding a memorable zest to simple street tacos — topped off with diced onion, cilantro and lime — this bourbon-based dish is sure to become a fast favorite.
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Campfire Burritos
Burritos are such an easy food to prepare for a camping trip if you're headed to the great outdoors this weekend. Everything inside them is already cooked, they require no utensils or cooking equipment, and you can easily customize them to your liking. Just tightly wrap them in aluminum foil and throw them in the fire until hot throughout.
Get the recipeGuacamole
Nothing's too difficult about stirring up all the ingredients it takes to turn avocados into guac. It takes five minutes and limited effort other than a wooden spoon and moderately strong wrist for stirring. You will want to allow a brief amount of time for the included vegetables to macerate (i.e., let them break down by soaking to remove some of the bitterness), and serve immediately, or the avocados will begin to turn brown. If you want to make the recipe a little ahead of time, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole to minimize oxygen exposure, and store in the refrigerator for a maximum of two hours.
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Agave Margarita
Here's our take on a classic margarita, no sour mix needed. The bright tartness from the lime plus the sweetness of the agave nectar blend to make a perfectly-balanced cocktail. The best thing about this margarita — aside from its simplicity — is that you can riff off of this basic formula. Add fruit juice or swap in some mezcal for a smokier taste. The possibilities are endless! 
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Frozen Strawberry Margaritas
This perfect twist on the classic is just in time for the season's favorite fruit — strawberries. Here you can use either fresh or frozen strawberries to help create a sweet and tart cocktail that is perfect alongside some salsa. 
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Prickly Pear Margarita
Not to be superficial, but the color of this cocktail alone is reason enough to want to try it. Made with prickly pear syrup and all the other traditional fixings, this recipe should definitely be in your arsenal. 
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This citrus-centric mixture refreshes the thirst just as nicely as the tequila it contains relaxes and rejuvenates the soul. And if you truly want to elevate your margarita game, ditching the store-bought sour mix in favor of making your own is a great start. We've included the sour mix recipe with the margarita instructions, and it will last for about ten days in the refrigerator, so you'll have plenty in the event that the fiesta doesn't end on Seis de Mayo.
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Want more Cinco de Mayo recipes? Check these out: 
Bob Armstrong Chili con Queso
Spicy Fish Tacos
Lobster Enchiladas
Austin-Style Migas Tacos
Memphis BBQ Pork Tacos
Grilled Fish Tacos
Eddie Hernandez's Fish Tacos with Poblano Tartar Sauce
Chipotle Shrimp Tacos
Chicken Tinga Tacos

Photos (shrimp ceviche, pineapple salsa, campfire burritos, agave margarita, strawberry margarita): Ramona King
Photo (cauliflower tacos): Ryan Hughley
Photos (guacamole, grapefruit margarita): Ranji McMillan

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Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”