Acclaimed chefs, cookbook authors, and TV personalities (“Top Chef” and “Too Hot Tamales”) Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, owners of the gourmet Mexican restaurants Border Grill in Las Vegas, wowed guests at a recent multi-course brunch demo at Bon Appétit’s Vegas Uncork’d. For over two decades, the dynamic duo has set the standard for modern gourmet Mexican cuisine, and we experienced first-hand a selection of their innovative dishes and cocktails at this festive boozy brunch. Signature dishes included Guava Empanadas, Huevos Rancheros, Shrimp with Roasted Corn Grits, Homemade Chorizo Skillet Chilaquiles, and decadent Dulce de Leche-Infused Churro Tots, along with specialty cocktails such as a Verde Maria (a Mexican twist on the classic Bloody Mary), and Blood Orange Jalapeño Margaritas. Find their 10 delicious gourmet Mexican recipes below!
Makes 1 cocktail
1 1/2 ounces cilantro infused Absolute vodka
4 ounces Verde Maria Mix (see below)
Verde Maria Mix:
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
1 1/2 ounces simple syrup
6 tomatillos, roasted
2 fresh tomatillos, washed in warm water
8 spinach leaves
1 4-inch piece cucumber
1 serrano chile, stemmed but with seeds in tact
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Blend lime juice, simple syrup, tomatillos, spinach, cucumber juice, serrano, and salt in a blender. Strain through a large-holed china cap or strainer.
Fill a 12-ounce margarita glass with ice. Add vodka, Verde Maria mix and serve immediately with a cucumber spear.
Avocado, Mango and Grapefruit Salad with Yogurt Agave Dressing
1 to 2 pink grapefruits, chilled
2 ripe California avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled
1 mango, halved, seeded, and peeled
3/4 cupGreek yogurt
2 large limes, juiced
2 to 3 tablespoons agave
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mint leaves for garnish
Tajin, for serving (optional)*
Slice ends off grapefruit and stand upright on a counter. Cut away skin and membrane, exposing fruit. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, separate sections by slicing with a serrated knife between membranes. Remove and discard seeds. Slice avocado in halves lengthwise in 1/2-inch slices. Cut the mango halves lengthwise in 1/2-inch slices. Arrange, alternating grapefruit sections, mango strips, and avocado slices on 4 salad plates.
Whisk together Greek yogurt, lime juice, agave, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Just before serving, spoon about 2 tablespoons of dressing in a stripe over each salad. Garnish with mint leaves and sprinkle with Tajin.
*Tajin is a spicy salt mixture that is used in many classic Mexican dishes and can be found in most Mexican supermarkets or in the Mexican food aisle in your grocery store. If you cannot find it, you can purchase it on Amazon.com here.
Makes 6 empanadas (shown above with fruit salad)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces cotija cheese*, grated
1 cup guava paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Dough (recipe below), rolled into 1/8-inch thickness
1 large egg, beaten, for egg wash
Preheat oven to 350° F or 325° F with the fan on.
In one mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and grated cheese. In another mixing bowl, stir together the guava paste and lime juice. Add in a third bowl, combine the sugar with the cinnamon. Set the three mixtures aside.
Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 4-inch circles and rest 5 minutes.
Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture over half of each circle then top with 1 tablespoon of the guava mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Brush the edges with some of the egg wash and then fold the dough over to enclose the filling, forming a half moon. Seal the edges by pressing the top to bottom with the tines of a fork. Chill at least 30 minutes, or overnight, before baking.
Place the empanadas on a baking sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. With a sharp knife, cut three small slits in the top of each empanada for steam to escape. Bake 30 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.
*Semi-aged sharp Spanish manchego cheese can be substituted.
Cream Cheese Dough
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Put cream cheese, butter and salt into a mixing bowl. Using your mixer’s paddle attachment mix until light and fluffy. Add flour slowly and mix JUST until dough forms. Wrap ball of dough in plastic wrap and chill thoroughly.
Blood Orange Jalapeño Margarita
Makes 1 cocktail
1 slice jalapeño, with seeds
2 ounces tequila blanco
1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed blood orange juice, strained*, preferably Moro
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce agave simple syrup**
Ice, for cocktail shaker and glass
1 strip blood orange peel, for garnish (optional)
1 slice jalapeño, for garnish (optional)
Mole Rim Mix, for serving:
2 packs Ibarra chocolate
2 to 3 dried chipotle chiles
2 to 3 dried ancho chiles
Zest of 2 oranges
For the Mole Rim Mix:
Roast chiles in the oven for 20 minutes at 350° F. Remove stems off chiles, combine with chocolate in a blender and blend. Zest oranges and combine with chocolate and chiles.
Rim a rocks glass with Mole Rim Mix and set aside.
For the cocktail:
Place chile slice in a cocktail shaker and using a muddler or the back of a spoon, pound and crush to release flavor and heat. Add tequila, blood orange juice, lime juice, and agave simple syrup. Fill cocktail shaker with ice, cover, and shake thoroughly to combine.
To remove jalapeño seeds, double strain mixture by pouring through the cocktail shaker strainer and a small wire mesh strainer into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with blood orange peel and jalapeño, if desired, and serve immediately.
*Straining the blood orange juice to remove the pulp created a more concentrated flavor and a smoother juice.
**To make agave simple syrup, combine equal parts agave nectar and boiling water. Cool and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
2 cups finely ground deep yellow masa harina
1 3/8 cups cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup refried black beans
~2/3 cup vegetable oil
Butter, for frying eggs
1 1/2 cups Ranchero Sauce (see recipe below)
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Corn tortillas, julienned and fried until crispy, for garnish
Combine masa harina, water and salt in a mixing bowl and knead until smooth. The dough should be slightly sticky and form a ball when pressed together. To test, flatten a small ball of dough between your pals. If the edges crack, add water to the dough, a tablespoon at a time, until a test piece does not crack. Divide dough into 12 pieces and form each into a ball. Place on a platter and cover with a damp cloth.
Press or roll each ball into a 4-inch circle. If using a tortilla press, line the press with 2 sheets of plastic, cut from a thin plastic bag. Flatten each ball of dough in the press, the remove the plastic from the top, and holding the tortilla with your fingertips, peel off the bottom sheet.
Heat a dry cast-iron skillet or non-stick pan until moderately hot. Lay the tortillas one by one on the skillet and let cook 30 to 45 seconds then flip and cook for an additional 30 seconds, pressing the top of each tortilla with your fingertips to make it puff up.
When cool enough to handle, pick up each puffed tortilla and make a slit 1 1/2-inch long and 1/4-inch from the edge to make a pocket, being careful not to cut all the way through the tortilla. Stuff about 1/2 tablespoon of warmed refried beans in each pocket. Flatten to seal and spread the beans evenly. Reserve the stuffed tortillas (or panuchos) on a tray and cover with a barely damp cloth.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet over high heat. Fry the stuffed tortillas in batches until they are a little crisp around the edges but still pliable. Drain on paper towels then place on a tray and keep warm in a 200° F oven.
Remove the tray of paunches from the oven. Top each with a fried egg, a few tablespoons of Ranchero Salsa, cilantro, and some crispy fried tortilla strips. Serve immediately.
1 cup white onion, diced
1/2 cup poblano, diced
1.2 cup red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 quart Salsa Roja (recipe below)
In a medium saucepan, lightly caramelize the onion. Add garlic, peppers, and spices. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, bring Salsa Roja to a boil. Add onion mixture. Serve immediately with panuchos.
Makes 1 1/2 quarts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cups diced canned Italian plum tomatoes
1 cup tomato juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large jalapeño, stemmed, seeded if desired
1 teaspoon salt
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Cook the onions until soft, about 10 minutes. Pass through a medium strainer, pressing with a spatula or wooden spoon to push through as much as possible.
Pour into a saucepan, and add the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Set aside to cool for table salsa or use warm for rice or chilaquiles. Any remaining salsa can be stored in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days or in the freezer for weeks.
Aji Panca Peruvian Shrimp and Roasted Corn Grits
For the shrimp:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 poblano, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup Aji Panca Marinade (recipe below)
Aji Panca Marinade:
1/4 cup aji panca puree*
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 Serrano chile, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Roasted Corn Grits
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grilled corn, cut off the cob*
1/2 cup instant corn grits
1/4 cup grated Mexican manchego cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons grated cottage cheese
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Aji Panca Marinade:
In a bowl, combine aji panca puree, ginger, green onions, cilantro, serrano, garlic, citrus juices, olive oil, honey, salt, and chiles. Add shrimp and marinate overnight.
Prepare the grits:
Bring broth, cream and salt to a boil. Add grilled corn, lower heat to a simmer, and slowly whisk in grits. Continue whisking and cooking grits until thick, about 10 minutes, adding more cream and chicken broth if needed.
Stir in cheeses. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.
*To grill corn, preheat grill to medium high. Carefully remove corn silks, leaving husks attached. Soak ears of corn in husks in a large bowl or sink of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain corn well and place each husk-enclosed ear on the hot grill. Cook for about 12 minutes, turning frequently. The corn is done when it loses its raw crunch. Remove from grill. When corn is cool enough to handle, pull off husks, and cut cooked corn from cob. Can also be cooked under a broiler.
Prepare the shrimp:
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until golden. Add peppers, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside on a plate. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and cook shrimp until just cooked. Toss in the pepper mixture and serve with Roasted Corn Grits.
*Aji Panca is a type of chile pepper that is commonly grown in Peru, and frequently used in Peruvian cuisine. It is a dark red, mild pepper with a smoky, fruity taste. It’s often sold dried or prepared into a paste. You can find the dried peppers or jarred paste in Latin food stores or Amazon.com here.
Jalisco Burro (a twist on a Moscow Mule)
Makes 1 cocktail
1 1/2 ounces tequila reposado
3/4 ounces Patron Incendio
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce agave nectar
Combine tequila, Patron Incendio, lime juice, and agave nectar in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Stain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice and top with ginger beer.
Homemade Chorizo Skillet Chilaquiles
1 cup Chipotle Salsa (see recipe below)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
Olive oil, to cook the eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces Homemade Chorizo (see recipe below), cooked until crispy and brown
1 cup grated Mexican manchego cheese, or other melty cheese like Monterey Jack
6 to 8 cups corn tortilla chips
1 ripe avocado, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded if desired, and minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving
1/4 cup sour cream, for serving (optional)
In a wide skillet, bring salsa, broth, and half and half to a boil. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, gently scramble the eggs in olive oil with a touch of sea salt and pepper.
Add warm chorizo, cheese and tortilla chips to salsa mixture, mixing gently to coat each chip while simmering. In 1 to 2 minutes, when some of the chips have moistened and begun to break up, but others are still holding their shape, fold scrambled eggs, distributing evenly.
Remove format and divide among 4 warmed plate. Sprinkle each plate with avocado, red onion, chiles, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Add sour cream if desired and serve immediately.
Makes 1 pound
1 pound very coarsely ground pork butt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 ounce achiote paste
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
In a medium size bowl, mix the pork, cumin, oregano, garlic, chile powder, achiote paste, paprika, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar thoroughly.
Refrigerate, in an air tight container, overnight. This allows the flavors to meld. Any leftover chorizo may also be frozen.
Makes 5 cups
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
10 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed, or 6 canned chipotle chiles
8 Roma tomatoes, cored
10 cloves garlic
3 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. The liquid should be reduced by 1/3, and the tomato skins should be falling off. Set aside to cool. Pour the mixture into a blender or a food processor and puree until smooth.
Chill until serving time. The remaining salsa can be stored in the refrigerator up to 5 days or frozen for up to a month.
Spiced Café de Olla
2 cinnamon sticks
2 allspice berries
2 whole cloves
2 star anise
4 cups water
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup dark roast coffee beans, medium grind or 3/4 cup pre-ground beans
1 cup frothed, warm milk
8 ounces Patrón XO Café
Lightly crush spices in a mortar. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and spices and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to melt the sugar. Stir in the coffee grounds, remove from heat, cover, and steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the coffee through a fine sieve or a coffee filter into a pitcher and add Patron XO Café.
Serve the coffee in tall glasses with the frothed milk in a pitcher alongside.
Dulce de Leche Churro Tots with Whipped Cream
1 1/4 cups water
6 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
2 1/4 ounces (5 tablespoons) brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups store-bought or homemade dulce de leche (see recipe below)
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Whipped cream (see recipe), for serving
Place water, butter, brown sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add flour all at once and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball and smells like toasted flour.
Transfer to the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment and paddle dough while adding eggs one at a time allowing machine to incorporate each egg before adding the next one. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl often and add vanilla. Lastly, add dulce de leche and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Transfer mixture to a container and refrigerate until ready to fry.
Heat vegetable oil for frying in a pot. Place churro batter in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tube. Alternatively, place batter into a large zipper bag and snip the tip off. When oil is 375° F drop 2-inch long churros from the bag into the oil and fry about 4 minutes or until well-browned and floating. Centers will still be a tiny bit gooey because of the dulce de leche in the batter. Remove churros to a paper lined plate.
Combine sugar and cinnamon and toss with hot churros.
To serve, place churro tots on a small plate or in a shallow bowl accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream for dipping.
Dulce de Leche
Tip: double the batch and divide in half if you’d like extra for dipping!
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Combine ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring often, for 45 minutes to an hour or until mixture becomes a caramel color and is thick enough that you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir. By volume it should be reduced to about 1 cup. Cool to room temperature and use immediately or store in refrigerator until ready to use.
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Combine cream and sugar in a cold mixing bowl and whip until stiff peaks form.
Editorial disclosure: Foodista's travel and expenses to Vegas Uncork'd were generously provided Bon Appétit and Kirvin Doak Communications.
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