MS. MARGARITA: The Return of Tequila and Traditional Mexican Cuisine

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Ana Corea  is a Mexican born and raised, Canadian educated sommelier living in Nova Scotia.  In preparation for Cinco de Mayo on May 5, Ana is sharing her favourite recipes for authentic Margaritas, salsa  and tortillas.

 

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1. Authentic Margarita

Rim a rocks glass with salt. Place 1 ounce Reposada Tequila, 1/2 fluid ounce Cointreau and juice of a lime in an ice-filled cocktail shaker with a pinch of salt. Shake until the shaker gets frosty on the outside. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.

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2. The Paloma

According to Ana, a favourite variation of the Margarita is known as the Paloma, which translates as the Dove. For this recipe Ana recommends a lighter style Blanco (also known as Silver) Tequila. To make this cocktail, rim a highball glass with salt. Fill the glass with ice and then add 1 1/2 fluid ounces Silver Tequila, juice of 1/2 lime and fill with Fresca (or grapefruit soda).

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3. Tequila Typicity

Gone are the days when Tequila’s reputation rested on fiery shots preceded by a lick of salt and a chaser of lime. Tequila has come a long way, and unlike the past when many lesser spirits used the Tequila name, the name Tequila is now protected under NAFTA, much like a European wine appellation. Tequila is a distilled spirit made from blue agave plants grown in the Jalisco province and select other communities. Unaged versions are listed as Blanco (or Silver), those with minimal aging as Joven (or Gold), those aged between 2 months and  1 year in oak are Reposado and those aged for between 1 and 3 years in oak as Añejo. The latter two styles can  be used for cocktails or served neat like any fine spirit.

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4. Pico de Gallo

The salsa most of us are familiar with is a derivative of Pico de Gallo. For an authentic Pico de Gallo recipe, Ana suggests combining 2 large hothouse tomatoes (diced), 1/2 white onion (diced), 1/2 large bunch  of cilantro (finely chopped) and 1 Jalapeño (seeded, finely diced) in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, 1/4 cup canola oil and juice of 1 lime. Check after 5 minutes for seasoning and heat. Add more salt, pepper or Jalapeño, if desired.

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5. Salsa Verde

In Mexico, salsa isn’t always red. Ana recommends making Salsa Verde con Aguacate (avocado based salsa). When picking avocado, Ana stresses the importance of picking a ripe avocado. She says no to avocados that are green on the outside. A good avocado should be super ripe. Don’t worry about blemishes. To make the salsa, start by peeling and rinsing 7 medium-sized tomatillos (Mexican green tomatoes, found in cans in many grocery stores). Place in a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes or until they are completely opaque. Drain. Transfer to a blender with 1/2 bunch cilantro, 1/2 white onion (chopped) and 1Jalapeño (seeded and diced). Blend thoroughly, taste and adjust seasoning and heat.

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6. Tortillas

A staple of any Mexican table is tortillas. Combine  1 1/2 cup Maseca*  with a pinch of table salt and  1 cup ice cold water in a bowl. Mix with a fork until  it has consistency of play dough. If it is too wet or too  dry, adjust accordingly by adding more Maseca or water. Once the consistency is obtained, shape into balls slightly larger than the size of golf balls. Use a tortilla press (or a rolling pin) and press until about  5 mm thick. Place a cast iron pan over high heat.  Once hot, place a tortilla into the pan and allow it  to cook. Once cooked, it will unstick itself from the pan and you’ll see some brown-ish spots.  Flip and repeat. Repeat until all the tortillas are cooked.* According to Ana, it needs to be Maseca brand.  The corn in the flour has been treated specifically  to be able to make tortillas.

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7. Totopos

Skip the store-bought tortilla chips. If you want to make it authentic, try Ana’s recipe for Totopos. Cut the tortillas into triangles, set out on a counter and allow to them to dry overnight. Place 2-inches of canola oil in a deep pan and heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot, carefully lower tortilla slices in batches into the hot oil. Fry until they are crispy. According to Ana “you can fry them without drying them overnight but they will just absorb more fat and take longer to be crunchy.”

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8. Esquites

For an authentic taste of Mexico, Ana recommends making Esquites, which she describes as “Mexican street food.” Cut off kernels from 4 ears of corn and add to a large pot with a couple Serrano chilies (deveined, deseeded and thinly sliced), 4 epazote leaves (finely chopped) and enough chicken stock to fully cover the kernels. Once the kernels are tender in the middle, remove from stock and serve in individual cups. Garnish with a lime wedge, chili powder, Queso Fresco (or ricotta) cheese and crème fraîche. Ana suggests “serving a little bit of the broth with the kernels if you’d like the snack to be moist. I always eat it with mayo,  but some people find that ‘too Spanish.’”

For an authentic taste of Mexico, Ana recommends making Esquites, which she describes as “Mexican street food.” Cut off kernels from 4 ears of corn and add to a large pot with a couple Serrano chilies (deveined, deseeded and thinly sliced), 4 epazote leaves (finely chopped) and enough chicken stock to fully cover the kernels. Once the kernels are tender in the middle, remove from stock and serve in individual cups. Garnish with a lime wedge, chili powder, Queso Fresco (or ricotta) cheese and crème fraîche. Ana suggests “serving a little bit of the broth with the kernels if you’d like the snack to be moist. I always eat it with mayo,  but some people find that ‘too Spanish.’”

For an authentic taste of Mexico, Ana recommends making Esquites, which she describes as “Mexican street food.” Cut off kernels from 4 ears of corn and add to a large pot with a couple Serrano chilies (deveined, deseeded and thinly sliced), 4 epazote leaves (finely chopped) and enough chicken stock to fully cover the kernels. Once the kernels are tender in the middle, remove from stock and serve in individual cups. Garnish with a lime wedge, chili powder, Queso Fresco (or ricotta) cheese and crème fraîche. Ana suggests “serving a little bit of the broth with the kernels if you’d like the snack to be moist. I always eat it with mayo,  but some people find that ‘too Spanish.’”

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9. Conchas

Conchas (sea shells) are quite possibly the best known pastries in Mexico. According to Ana “they are made using a simple base of a ‘brioche-esque’ bread and a lovely sugar topping that is made to look like sea shells. According to Ana “they are sweet and light on the inside but the outside is covered in a sugar paste (made with flour) that dries during baking and becomes flaky when you bite into it … it literally dissolves on your tongue. In some rural parts of Mexico they are paired with a simple side dish of savoury black beans but I always eat them with ‘chocolate caliente’ (hot chocolate).”

OCCASIONS RECOMMENDS
Don Julio  Blanco Tequila,  750 ml, $69.99
1800 Silver Tequila,  750 ml, $35.99
Sauza Hornitos Reposado Tequila, 750 ml, $39.99
Patrón Anejo Tequila,  750 ml, $99.99

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