Recipe Test Nest » 5 Star » Mexican Fiesta
Mexican Fiesta

I love Mexican food! I’ve had more than one co-worker in the past tease me about always wanting to order Mexican. I think I love it for many reasons. 1) It is a perfect compliment to Dr. Pepper. 2) Cost savings – most meals are so large they turn into two for me. 3) What could be better than lime, spice, meat, cheese, avocado, beans, rice, tortillas and all of the multiple combinations that can be made with the same ingredients (in fact a few jokes were told at dinner around such a statement).

My testers (Russ Schaffer, Mala Grewal Harrell, Justin Benson, Anna Haymore, Jason Robertson, Todd Stevens and Amber Mackay) and I spent a wonderful rainy Fall evening eating and discussing quite the range of political topics from non-profits to social entrepreneurship and micro-finance to TED Talks and love. It was really quite enjoyable (these dinners just keep getting better and better). Russ took pictures for me with my camera (they look much better than when I take them, I really need to learn some tricks) – thanks Russ!

Mocktail: Blueberry Lime Margarita (3.5 Stars)

I really need to get a new blender since mine does not do well at crushing ice and thus these margaritas were not a perfect margarita consistency. It was however a nice variety on the classic lime margarita. It could use more lime and Todd felt it didn’t have enough flavor so maybe the lime would remedy that, or some more blueberries as well.

Appetizer: Coconut Shrimp (5 Stars)

When I first tasted these as they came out of the oven, I felt they might be a little too salty from the shake and bake mix, but with the chutney they really did turn out perfect. I think the coconut flavor could be intensified so I will add more toasted coconut next time. I served it with a mix of mango and peach chutneys that I had made previously and had in the freezer. I’ve had coconut shrimp at restaurants with pineapple chutney or a chipotle dip.

Main: Make your own Tostadas with lime-cumin steak (3 Stars), black beans (3 Stars), guacamole (4 Stars), smoked tomato salsa (3.5 Stars)

There are so many ways to serve Mexican but I had these recipes I wanted to try for a tostada party. I still hate frying but the tostadas were a little more manageable. I just need to learn how to keep the oil at the perfect temperature. Some of the tostadas were perfectly crispy and others not so much. Anna suggested adding salt after frying which I agree. Complete with all the toppings the tostadas were quite tasty, but there is always room for improvement.

Serving and keeping meat warm is always a challenge in these types of dishes. I did my best to keep the meat medium but needed to cut the strips thinner. The flavor wasn’t strong enough. It definitely need more lime and kick – the cumin didn’t really come through very strongly either. Maybe squeezing a lime on the meat after it was cooked would have helped make the lime stronger. The black beans called for tomato juice, oregano and garlic but none of these flavors really came through.

The salsa and guacamole definitely turned out better. I liked the more robust flavors in the smoked tomato salsa rather than just a fresh salsa. The recipe I used needed more spice, salt and cilantro. The guacamole needed a little more lime and salt as well.

I can’t find the recipes online that I used (as I torn this out of a magazine), so I suggest searching online for similar recipes.

Dessert: Mexican Wedding Cakes (4.5 Stars) and Ancient Aztec Cacahuati Hot Chocolate (5 Stars)

The linked recipe for the wedding cakes is just slightly different than the one I used but closest I could find. Anna and Amber were both thinking of ways to enhance the cakes and suggested a drizzling caramel or a layer of almond glaze.

The hot chocolate recipe is from Fred Thompson’s cookbook “Hot Chocolate, 50 heavenly cups of comfort,” which I might add is one of the best gifts I’ve been given (thanks Sally). Now that the colder months are here, I hope to try many more from this cookbook. I figured I’d link you to the history of Hot Chocolate for your reading pleasure.

3 Comments (Leave a Reply)

  1. Monster Mary (October 12, 2010)

    Oh my, yet another of my favorite ethnic foods, mexican. I can always go for some good mexican food.

    You know you can buy those tostada shells already crisp so you don't need to fry them right? I'm pretty sure that's how every mexican on my mission served tostadas. I do love a good tostada though.

    I'm definitely looking up the hot chocolate recipe as it's that season for us already. 😉

    My favorite mexican meals I make at home are . .
    green enchiladas with a chile tomatillo sauce, refried beans, pico de gallo, sour cream , and horchata.
    Tortas de carne asada, chips and salsa, fresh fruit

    Sopes with cabbage, pico de gallo, crema, and queso fresca

    Pozole (I make it with left over turkey meat from thanksgiving but it's really good with pork too)

    And Chiles Rellenos, I make them with poblanos, and I can't usually find the oaxaca cheese so I use monteray jack and I make a sauce that goes with them.

    Mmmm gotta love mexican. Oh and I made a pumpkin flan once that tasted a lot like pumpkin pie not my favorite but the tres leches cake is pretty good.

    If you learn how to make carnitas let me know. I'd like to make that sometime.

    I love reading your adventures in food. It always makes me want to start having dinner parties or something. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Todd Stevens (November 15, 2010)

    I generally don't like to eat anything beef or related to beef, but the beef at Amber's TestNest had a phenomenally good taste. I liked everything except the Blueberry Lime Magarita. Somehow, I guess when something looks like it's very, very tasty, you feel like it's going to blow you away to a sugary state of mind so it could just be my stereotyping of food. So I loved everything else, but the beef was something any vegeterian would escape their vegetative state for. And that's on both this and the previous occasion.

  3. Russell Shaffer (November 28, 2010)

    Let me judge this meal by saying that I don't like shrimp. But the coconut shrimp appetizer that Amber made was sooo good! So that gives you an idea of what the rest of the Mexican meal (of which I'm a HUGE fan) was like.

    Tostadas are some of my favorite Mexican dishes, and Amber didn't disappoint. The lime steak and the black beans were good, and added the hardiness that one comes to expect from a good tostada. But it was her fresh quacamole and salsa that made the meal. They added that freshness and spice that is so requisite in a delicious Mexican meal.

    The only thing that could make this meal better would be to have it again.

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