Cinco de Mayo and Appreciating Teachers…

8 05 2011

Some holidays are so convenient!  The first week of May is often that way…as it was this year.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Mexican food and make and consume it regularly…so Cinco de Mayo is not merely an excuse to indulge, but it’s also a time when a lot of extra goodies become available for a limited time.  This week was full of Carne Asada tacos, cheese enchiladas for the teachers, and a Pastel de Tres Leches…that’s right…Cake of three milks.

Awhile back I mentioned that I was testing granulated chilies for Marx Foods…This was a great week to use chilies!  I picked up a package of round steak cut for carne asada, and created a marinade with my own two hands.  I expected it to be tasty, but…oh wow!!

Chipotle Carne Asada Marinade

Juice of 1/2 to 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 Tablespoon Marx Granulated Dried Chipotle Chilies

Combine the ingredients in a large zip-locking plastic bag, and add up to 2 pounds of beef (I used round steak) slice for carne asada.  Marinate at least 3 hours, but 48 hours is the best minimum for round steak.
At cooking time, wipe most of the marinade from the meat before throwing the meat on a hot grill or comal.  Cook until well seared on each side, slice across the grain at a slight diagonal slant into thin strips.  Serve with pico de gallo at the table with hot tortillas of your choice.  I prefer the small taquito size…but anything up to 5 inches or so is a nice hand size.

I found that although I was marinating 2 pounds of meat, we used about 2-3 slices of meat for dinner for two people.   Dressed with lettuce and cilantro, draped in pico de gallo, you have most of a meal in hand…Antojitos.  Little bites.  Meals for the “on-the-go”…Mexican fast-food.  We didn’t “invent” fast food at all!

On Cinco de Mayo, I made the above Carne Asada for our tacos…it made for a quick, complete supper for us so I could get back to the kitchen and start work on the Teachers’ Appreciation Luncheon for the next day.  I had volunteered to make cheese enchiladas and a Pastel de Tres Leches, better known as a Tres Leches Cake…or as my dear friend Alton Brown calls it…Tres Leche Cake.  Since I used his recipe…should I correct his titling…absolutely.  We mustn’t promulgate mistakes.

This quiet, unassuming little cake begins as a simple butter cake.  No big deal.  Click on the link, and follow ALL the instructions.  Especially the part about waiting overnight.  Especially that part.  And I do know how hard it is to wait.  Really I do.  By the time I got my cake out of the oven it was easily 10 p.m. and I was ready…ever so ready…to go to bed.  I cooled my cake far less than suggested, maybe a total of 30 minutes…the 15 minutes I could force myself to sit still and the few minutes it took to mix the ingredients for the glaze…I did make one teeny tiny change, quite by mistake.  I didn’t see that the recipe called for 1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, and only put 1 teaspoon in the cake batter.  I “fixed” this by adding the missing 1/2 teaspoon to the glaze.  I seriously doubt that made for any drastic change in the outcome.  Since I knew my cake was going to have to wait after being frosted, I didn’t push frosting it before it chilled.  I was leery of frosting it while it was still really warm.  I wasn’t worrying about the glaze, but the frosting…yes!

Let me tell you…this whipped cream frosting mixes up in one big hurry!  I ran out to the extra fridge to get the cake and the frosting was ready when I got back…and I didn’t fool around!  Since I’d made the cake in a 9 x 13 inch pan, there was more than enough frosting.  There was even enough to drop a dollop onto “good morning!” coffee!

A friend described the taste as… “Like when you let your ice cream melt into your cake,” and that about says it.  Incredibly moist without being soggy.  I think I stumbled on the trick to this…whip the butter until very light…whip it more with the eggs and sugar.  When you add the flour mixture, use the lowest setting that will mix the flour into the creamy mixture.  Stop just before the last addition of flour is totally incorporated in the batter.  You can finish the mixing by hand as you move the batter to the prepared pan.  After baking, I used a broken piece of bucatini pasta to poke the holes in the pasta…it worked great!  I used every drop of the liquid and rotated my pan around so the glaze got to every side of the cake.  As hard as it was…I didn’t taste this until it was serving time for the luncheon.  By that time, all the ingredients had had time to become one…oh and what a wonderful oneness!

It’s kind of nice to get almost empty pans back… *Ü*

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