I’m getting ready to celebrate the big 3-0, which happens to fall on Cinco de Mayo. I like to think that all the hoopla, celebration, margaritas, tequila shots, and cerveza consumption happening around me is really in honor of my birthday. And since it’s my birthday, I can think what I want. (Or cry if I want to…now that song that will be stuck in my head for days.)
|The island of Moorea...best birthday week EVER|
Birthdays are a big deal around here. With Andy’s being only two days before mine, we like to treat ourselves to an extended birthday week where anything goes and we generally spoil each other rotten. We’ve celebrated on the island of Moorea in Tahiti, with a two-week road trip of the Pacific Northwest and Canada, on Maui and in Yosemite. If all had gone to plan, we would have been in Italy for a three-week birthday trip as I type this. Unfortunately, Andy is still struggling with his eye and the effects of the radiation, and it just wasn’t in the cards. So perhaps Italy will be a birthday trip to celebrate the big 3-1 instead. Better late than never, right?
|Sunrise at Crater Lake and a whole lot of snow in May|
Instead, we are planning to play it by ear and take advantage of the many near-by possibilities. Living in the Bay Area gives you plenty of options for day trips: wine-tasting, restaurants, beaches, mountains, hustle and bustle, or peace and quiet. The possibilities are endless…now it’s just a matter of choosing. One thing we do know is that we have nine days of relaxation, no obligations, and each other’s company. I can think of worse things.
One thing I do not do on my birthday anymore is go out to bars. It’s just too crazy, too crowded, and too drunken. I’d rather not have to jockey for a bar stool and deal with all the rowdiness…does that mean I’m getting old?? Being on an island that sees Cinco de Mayo as any other day is fine by me. So since we’ll be home this year, I predict that we will stay in, open a bottle of wine from the “good shelf” and eat some great food. Since it is Cinco de Mayo, a certain theme just begs to be followed, and since we are both huge Mexican food fans, that is not a problem for us.
Andy’s all-time favorite meal is the chicken tostada salad from a little Mexican restaurant in Santa Barbara. It’s the only thing he ever orders when we go, and he truly adores it. So in honor of Andy’s birthday, I wanted to make chicken tostadas. These are nothing like the tostada that he gets at Playa Azul, but he was quite taken by them all the same. If eating was like poker, I’d be able to call Andy’s bluff every time. He has a tell when he really likes something…it’s a big widening of the eyes followed by a little smirk and almost always some sort of wimpery “mmmmm” noise. If I get the wide eyes, I know the dish is a winner. This one definitely got the wide eyes. And they happen to make a perfect Cinco de Mayo appetizer, or bocadito, to be enjoyed with a margarita, cerveza, or more likely for us, that bottle of good wine. Whatever you serve them with, they are sure to be a hit.
Spicy Chicken Tostaditos with Creamy Cilantro Drizzle
16 small corn tortillas, fried in canola oil until slightly crispy, then salted (see note)
8 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 poblano pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 head of garlic, top 1/3 removed
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup fresh corn
half a lime
salt, to taste
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
half a lime
In a flat dish, combine the chili powder, cayenne, cumin, coriander and salt. Pound the chicken breast out to an even thickness. Coat the chicken with a thin layer of canola oil, then press the chicken into the spice mixture, coating it heavily on both sides. Grill the chicken breast until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into very small pieces, stirring to combine with spice crust and reserve.
Turn the grill up to high heat and coat the garlic, poblano and jalapeno peppers in canola oil. Place on the grill (raw garlic side down) and allow the garlic to soften and peppers to blister and char. Remove from grill and place peppers in a bowl, then cover with saran wrap to allow skin to steam off. When cool enough to handle, remove the blackened skin from the peppers and chop finely. Press the garlic cloves out of their skins and chop finely.
In a small bowl, add chopped peppers, 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, tomatoes, black beans, and corn. Stir in juice of half a lime and salt to taste.
Put cilantro, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar and juice of half a lime into a mini food processor. Run until smooth.
To assemble, top each fried tortilla with salsa, chicken, then a drizzle of cilantro cream sauce.
(Note: I made homemade tortillas, about 2.5 inches across, and they were the perfect size for these tostaditos. Alternatively, you could buy small tortillas, or buy a larger size and use a cutter to cut out two from each.)
Time for wide eyes! These tostaditos are spicy, flavorful, and just damn good. Without any one piece, the dish wouldn’t work nearly as well. All the components combine to create an ideal bite. The creamy cilantro drizzle cools down the roasted peppers and spice of the chicken perfectly. I know one thing…we won’t be waiting for Cinco de Mayo to have these again.
Now, would you all join me in a song? Feliz cumpleaños a mí, feliz cumpleaños a mí …
Before you go…today, May 2, please stop by the bake sale at Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves. Becky is raising money for the American Cancer Society and walking in the Relay for Life. This is an easy way to support an important cause, plus you get goodies for doing it! We all know someone who has been affected by cancer, and anything we can do to help raise money against it is helpful. Becky is hoping to raise $1000, so go now…bid on some of those yummy treats!