Monday, June 29, 2015

Fiesta Always - With Tequila And Fun Friends

"Fiesta Always - with Tequila and fun friends" - the wise words Lucinda Hutson autographed into our signed copy of her lovely book: !Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking, and other Agave Adventures.

Last week we had the delight of hosting "A True Fiesta with Guest Chef and Author Lucinda Hutson."

Everyone who attended had an absolutely amazing time - which seems to be Lucinda's specialty! We worked hard in the kitchen to prepare her delicious recipes ahead of time, so by the time class started, we had a beautiful spread of amazing fiesta foods we could enjoy with uninterrupted story-telling and tequila fun! The majority of the recipes in Viva Tequila come together quickly and are best made in advance - so the host can enjoy the party too! All of the recipes had Lucinda's unique spin but one very important ingredient in common - Tequila! 

Highlights of our fiesta menu included:

Queso Sabroso (Snookered Goat Cheese) 

Queso Flameado (Melted Cheese Flambeed in Tequila) 

Corn Salsa Prontisimo (with Avocado, lots of fresh lime juice, and Tequila!) 

Negros y Pina a la Criztina (Black Beans and Pineapple Spiked with Mezcal) 
A delightful spin on a pot of nourishing beans! 

And my personal favorite:
Hoppin' Jalapeno (Spicy Jalapeno Carrot Cake with Margarita Frosting)
This cake is incredible! It is the most interesting, delicious, and moist carrot cake I have ever tried  - with a combination of lime zest, orange zest, jalapenos, pineapple, coconut, and many more surprises! It takes a little more prep time than many of the other recipes, but it well worth the effort. I've included the recipe at the end of this post because I think everyone should test it out! 

Our adventures did not end with our fiesta foods however - we also enjoyed a personal history lesson of Tequila and Mezcal, two traditional Mexican spirits made from plants of the Agave species. For example, Lucinda taught us that Tequila refers to the drink made from the roasted, fermented hearts of the Blue Agave plant, while Mezcal refers to the drink made from one or more of over 25 species of Agave. Then we got to experience how Tequila is most often enjoyed in Mexico - sipped alongside a beverage known as Sangrita - a lovely spicy, sweet, and authentic drink similar to a Bloody Mary. You can find Sangrita La Lucinda - a combination of freshly squeezed orange juice, pomegranate juice, hot sauce, and lime juice - and many more Sangrita recipes in !Viva Tequila!. 

Spicy Jalapeno Carrot Cake with Margarita Frosting

1/2 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons tequila anejo (or fruit- or citrus-infused tequila)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
4 large eggs
1 cup safflower oil 
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons coarsely grated lime zest 
1 tablespoon coarsely grated orange zest 
3 cups grated carrots, tightly packed
1 can (8 ounces) unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
4 or more fresh jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon tequila anejo 
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 teasoon lime zest
1 teaspoon orange zest 

  In a small bowl, plump raisins in tequila and set aside. Sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Stir in spices and set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs until pale yellow; add sugars and slowly mix in oil. On low speed, add dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in carrots, pineapple, plumped raisins, coconut, and jalapenos. 
  Pour into buttered/floured 12-cup bundt pan and bake for 55 minutes in a 350-degree oven or until tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan; cool cake on rack. 
  Make cake a day in advance of frosting; store at room temperature, tightly covered. Once frosted, store in the refrigerator. 
  Frosting: In a bowl, blend cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly mix in sugar, tequila, orange liqueur, and lime and orange zests. Consistency will be thinner than most cream cheese frostings, so there may be some left over. (Thicken with more cream cheese if desired.) Cover and chill cake, but serve at room temperature. Serves 12. 
  Note: Add a big handful of chopped crystalized ginger to the cake. Use some red fresno peppers instead of or in combination with the jalapenos.  

"Fiesta always - with Tequila and fun friends" 

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