Cinco de Mayo is a big deal in Chicago where we have one of the largest Mexican populations in the US. This may seem surprising given Chicago’s location in the center of the country and over a thousand miles from the border. So, why is there such a large Mexican population here? The reason is jobs. Chicago was a growing industrial hub with a railway network that allowed for easy access to immigrants fleeing political unrest in Mexico and southern Blacks seeking more opportunity than was available in the rural south. Today, the south and west sides are predominantly Mexican and Black as a result. I could go to the markets in Little Village or Pilsen for tomatillos, cilantro, masa harina or tortillas, but even the standard chains usually have these ingredients in abundance, such is the popularity of Mexican cuisine.
From taquerias to Michelin starred, there is a plethora of options for authentic Mexican dining. Rick Bayless became a national household name for foodies after winning the first Top Chef Masters, but his restaurants Frontera Grill (1*) and Topolobampo (2*) have been wildly popular since opening in 1987. I love them both and am now a big fan of his more recent venture, Lena Brava, which means fierce wood and focuses on Baja style cuisine. It was one of the first places we took our nephew, Tim, when he visited in 2017, and I was delighted to see how his palate had evolved as he ordered up raw oysters and octopus carnitas. We were blessed (most days) to have Tim live with us for almost 18 months when he accepted a position in Chicago upon graduating from BC in 2018. We went full circle for our final dinner together before he moved to New York for a new position. It was a wonderfully memorable, fun evening from the Mezcal tasting, the grilled Sea Bass Veracruz, Pork Carnitas and the Growvember mustache. Bonus that Tim treated!
While the Cinco de Mayo parades were canceled and we couldn’t go out to eat, we did manage to have a little fiesta at home. I made some Tuna Ceviche based on a Rick Bayless recipe, and my own creation of Chipotle Pork with a warm salsa of corn and black beans. Margaritas were a must, so I made some Blood Orange ones, which were delicious with the zesty ceviche. We first had these dangerously tasty cocktails last fall when we visited Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe actually has a Margarita Trail (there is even an App), and a must stop is at The Compound on Canyon Road. Everything about the place lived up to its billing, especially those margaritas. After a bit of experimenting, I came up with a recipe that is pretty darn close, if not spot on. Give them a try, but don’t say I didn’t warn you that they are dangerous . . . my limit is 1.
BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITAS
- 1 Cup Tequila
- ½ Cup Solerno or Cointreau
- ¼ Cup Lime Juice freshly squeezed
- ¼ Cup Blood Orange Juice freshly squeezed
- 1 tsp Peychaud’s Bitters
- 2 tsp Simple Syrup or Agave
- Crushed Ice if on the rocks
- Kosher Salt
- To make the simple syrup, whisk together equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan and boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool completely before using. This will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.
- Run a lime wedge around Martini (straight up) or Old Fashioned (rocks) glasses and dip the rims in Kosher salt. If serving on the rocks, fill each glass with crushed ice (if you don’t have an machine, place ice in a Ziploc bag and smash with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer).
- Pour the liquors, juices, bitters and simple syrup into a pitcher and give a quick stir to blend. You may do this in advance until ready to serve.
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add ½ cup of Margarita mix. Shake well and pour into prepared glasses.
- Garnish with a Blood Orange slice or lime wedge.
- 1 Cup Freshly squeezed Lime Juice
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Jalapeno pepper, seeds removed Fresh
- 1 Bunch Cilantro, leaves & stems, rinsed
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 pound Ahi Tuna, sushi grade
- 1 Avocado, cut into 1/2" cubes
- Place first 5 ingredients in a blender (Vitamix) and puree until smooth
- Cut tuna into 1/2" cubes and place in a glass or plastic bowl (not metal) and pour sauce over to coat entirely. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Add avocado and gently toss.
- Garnish with red onion slices and serve with tortilla chips.
- A super sharp knife is key to cutting the tuna. Placing in the freezer for 15 minutes will allow for easier slicing without tearing.
- Simply tear the cilantro from just above the rubber band or twist tie and rinse.
- This is best made just before you wish to serve, as the longer the fish sits in the marinade, the more it cooks.