Cinco de Mayo Family Dinner

What do you serve for  Cinco de Mayo when several of your guests are somewhat picky eaters or don’t like to eat with their hands? My family can be quite persnickety when it comes to food and eating.   What could I make that would be fitting for the day, delicious, semi-healthy and  be eaten with a fork?  Mexican Paella for Six from the Rick Bayless Fiesta at Rick’s cookbook!   Chicken, mussels, shrimp, chorizo sausage,  delicious tomato sauce, poblano pepper and tender rice.  I’ve always wanted to do a full blown Paella and someday I will  (mostly I think I just want the pan–sort of like when I was 5 and signed up for ballet–it was all about the shoes).

Before dinner I served homemade  guacamole and chips and  Margaritas.  With dinner I served a romaine salad, some crusty bread, and of course, red wine. Dessert was the previously blogged Rhubarb Ice Cream with Lemon Angel Food Cake.

Prepped ingredients

Prepped ingredients

The Paella was  easy to make and I was able to do a few steps ahead like browning the chicken and prepping the tomatoes and onions.  I used  actual paella rice–the recipe calls for medium grain and the paella rice wasn’t any more expensive and came in a fun cloth bag. Since Sunday was such a warm day, I  did the majority of the cooking outside  on the burner of the gas grill.  Jack’s expertly  seasoned cast iron skillet was the perfect pan to use for this dish as cast iron fries and sautes beautifully and the rice was tender with a bit of a crust on the bottom. The recipe calls for a 12 inch,  which I thought I was using, but  it was actually a 10 inch.  It worked fine until it came time to put the chicken, mussels and shrimp in the pan with the rice for the  finish in the oven.  Everything was crammed in the pan and it took 30 minutes longer at 50 degrees higher heat.

IMG_1700

I can’t find the recipe on-line, but here’s his regular Paella recipe– basically the same just scaled way down.  I used 6 chicken thighs, 1/2 pound of chorizo, 1/2 pound of shrimp, etc.  Make sure you use a large enough pan, or better yet, buy yourself a pretty paella pan, they’re not expensive, just hard to store.

Paella for 6

Paella for 6

If you need a a salad recipe that is super easy and will knock your guests socks off and make them wonder why they ever order salad at a restaurant, it’s this one from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Romaine Hearts with Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette

2 heads romaine lettuce

1 garlic clove

Salt and freshly milled pepper

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (use the Maille if you can!)

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff makes a difference here, too)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or more to taste

3/4 cup small toasted croutons (if you can’t make your own, the Metropolitan Market’s garlic croutons are yummy)

Slice the bottoms off the lettuce and remove most of the leaves until you get to the hearts.  Wash if needed and put the hearts ins spacious, wide bowl.

Pound the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon sale in a mortar until smooth.  Whisk in the lemon zest and juice, the mustard, then the oil.  Pour the dressing over the leaves and roll them over each other until coated. Sprinkle most of the cheese over the leaves, add the croutons, and toss again until the leaves are coated. Divide the sale among four large plates, add the remaining cheese, and finish with pepper (perhaps if you use a ridiculously large pepper grinder, your guests will think they are at a restaurant?)

Cook someone you love something yummy today and,  cheers!

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