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. Our recipe tsar Jeffrey "Cheffrey" Gardner wants you to be properly prepared, so he's curated a few surprisingly simple recipes that you'll have no trouble pulling off when the fiesta starts. 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, said Cheffrey, but he cautions against trying to take the too-easy route on this flavorful dish built on cured raw seafood. "You’ll want to find the freshest fish of the highest quality available," he said, and suggests 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. Also, once the fish has cured, the lime juice is no longer usable."
This citrus-centric mixture refreshes the thirst just as nicely as the tequila it contains relaxes and rejuvenates the soul. You don't have to stop there, said Jeffrey. "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." He includes the sour mix recipe with the margarita instructions, and says 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.
Chicken Tinga Tacos
You'll caramelize onions, stir in chorizo, then add chicken, garlic, chipotles and more, letting the mixture simmer and evaporate, adjusting the seasoning however you like with salt desired. From there you're spooning it into a tortilla, drizzling and garnishing, and of course chomping. This version is made in a Dutch oven, but "this would also be very successful if made in a slow cooker," Cheffrey said.
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.
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.”