Tag Archives: Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo!!

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Happy Cinco, campers! One last post for you about taco bar and side dishes, then I have to dash and get to work picking up my house.

Let’s have a quick coffee chat about refried beans. Coming from a taqueria they are silky, salty and savory. Coming out of a can from the grocery store, they are the consistency of brown paste.

And who likes a side of brown paste with their beautiful taco bar? Not me. Especially when they are so easy to make. I learned just how easy they are to make at home from my aunt’s best pal on a camping trip last summer, and I haven’t bought a can of refried beans since.

Refried Beans
Serves 8 as a side

1 40 oz. can of pinto beans (I was taught to use Teasdale, if you can find them)
2 serrano peppers, washed and dried
2-3 slices of bacon, on the fatty side if you have it (alternatively, if you keep bacon grease like I do you’ll need about 2 tablespoons

Drain the pinto beans, reserving the liquid in a bowl or measuring cup. Don’t bother rinsing the beans.

In a very heavy pan (cast iron is best), render the fat from your bacon over medium low heat. The object isn’t to crisp the bacon, this is sacrificial bacon as it’s being used for it’s fat only. (Use it to make yourself a BLT while your beans are cooking, no reason to throw it out). Remove the bacon from the pan.

Alternatively, if you hoard bacon grease like I do, scoop a couple of tablespoons out of the jar in the fridge and drop it into your pan. Melt it over medium heat until it glistens.

When your bacon is rendered or your fat is melted, drop in your serrano peppers and let them blister and brown over medium heat (be careful because they will pop on you). Give them a squeeze with your spoon every now and again to get some of the oils out.

If you like your beans with some heat, leave the peppers in and add your beans. If you prefer them mild, remove the peppers from the pan and add your beans. Add about 1/4 cup of the reserved bean liquid. Give the pan a stir and let it hang out for a bit.

For these beans, you’re going to almost completely cook out the liquid before adding more, over and over until they are the creamy consistency that you want them. I like mine with some chunks still but go ahead and let them break down completely if you’d like. Resist the urge to smash the beans, as the gentle cooking will do that for you. Give them a stir every now and again, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, but they don’t need babysitting. Total cook time is about 20-25 minutes. When you’re done, your beans should look approximately like this, for taqueria style beans:

Now, go pour yourself some sangria and finish putting together your taco bar. Your party is going to be a hit!

Hearthside Happy Hour: Sangria

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In typing the title there, I realize that I’m going to have to rename this series of segments someday, as we have no hearth in our new home.

I’m going to be so, so sad about that come Fall. But right now, it’s springtime and sunny. And there’s a festive reason to eat and drink this weekend (though you know me, I don’t need a festive reason to do either of these things).

I got an email from a reader (remind me to teach you guys how to comment soon) asking about a Sangria recipe, as there are many out there and they vary widely in ingredients and additions. Some call for lemon lime soda, some call for orange soda, some call for orange juice, some call for brandy and some don’t, ad nauseum. I’m here to tell you, it’s going to depend on how sweet you want your punch. I personally like to let the fruit and wine do the talking and let the sweetness take a back seat. This is a twofold preference, as the sugar added to the red wine makes for a Wicked hangover if you have too many. And a red wine drunk is bad, but a red wine hangover is awful.

Or so someone told me.

Here are a handful of tips:

  • Make your sangria at least 4 hours before you’re serving it and stick it in the fridge. This will help with keeping it cold later.
  • If you are heeding my advice and making it hours ahead, add the sparkling water just before serving (and make sure it’s cold before adding).
  • Use an inexpensive red wine, but not an out-and-out cheap wine. I prefer using Yellow Tail over Two Buck Chuck.
  • I personally like my Sangria a little less sweet, and so I use mineral water or club soda in place of the lemon lime soda. You may do as you wish, but in my personal polls most people dig it without the sweet soda. It’s more refresca that way.
  • You can easily sub in white wine for the red if the mood strikes you.
  • For a larger party or open house, I like to make fruit skewers to put into the glasses and serve the punch from a dispenser. And I drizzle my skewers with a little bit of Triple Sec for some added kick.
  • Speaking of fruit, the I list the basics in the recipe. You can add strawberries, blueberries, apple slices and melon cubes to your skewers or serving glasses.
  • And if you are using additional fruit in your dispenser or punch bowl, wash and freeze it prior to adding it to the container. Helps keep your punch cool.
  • If you’re using a beverage dispenser, do yourself a favor and pick the seeds out of the citrus. Nothing slows a party down like having to disassemble the nozzle and pry out a seed. And it’s not as easy as it sounds.
  • And last but not least, adding ice cubes directly to the Sangria if you’re serving it punch bowl or dispenser style will water it down in a hurry. Keep the ice on the side and let people fill their cups with it on their own.

And without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Sangria
Makes 8 servings, and scales up easily

1 750-ml bottle of dry red wine
1 1/2 cups of club soda, mineral water, or lemon-lime soda (regular or diet)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup sugar or honey or agave
2 tablespoons orange liqueur (triple sec, Cointreau, etc.)

Combine all in a large pitcher and let sit for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. Serve over ice with additional lemon, lime and orange slices, and any other fruits you wish.