Sunday night family dinner is now nicknamed Taco Night since we enjoyed tacos for two consecutive Sundays. If I continue for another week, we can practically call it a family tradition, ha! Last Sunday was Cinco de Mayo and it didn’t receive much attention from mainstream media in Canada. In Toronto, we do not have a very large Mexican population (2.6% of the population in Toronto are Latin American). Only in the last couple of years have we begun to see more taquerias in the city.
My anticipation for the celebration mainly stemmed from excitement of food blogs I regularly visit. All week long, I was bookmarking recipes and taking notes of which dishes I would like to eat. After much consideration, three items stood out: carnitas, horchata, and tres leches cake. In case you are unfamiliar with Mexican cuisine, that would be crispy pulled pork, rice almond milk, and sponge cake saturated with three different kinds of milk. Seeing that I am a beginner with Mexican cuisine, I turned to the always reliable America’s Test Kitchen for help.
Cinco de Mayo Feast for Six Hungry Eaters
Hello gorgeous, right? It all began with soaking rice and almond with cinnamon and vanilla on Friday night. Making horchata (recipe) isn’t unlike making nut milk from scratch. The infused liquid was blended, strained, and sweetened on Saturday with help from an immersion blender. I love this creamy refreshing drink! As part of my concussion recovery, imbibing alcohol is strictly off limits because it sends my heart racing. I am happy to be a good patient and leave the margaritas to others.
Dessert came next in my agenda. Tres leches cake (recipe, subscription only) literally translates to “three milk”. A hot milk sponge cake was soaked with a mixture of dulce de leche, evaporated milk, and cream. This cake benefits from an overnight chill in the fridge for the milk mixture to distribute evenly throughout the cake. America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe was a large 9x13 cake topped with whipped cream frosting. As much as I love rich dessert, it would be a bit too much. I cut the recipe in half for a more manageable 8-inch square cake without frosting. Each slice of cake was dense, reminiscent of pudding. The caramely milk mixture transformed the sponge cake into something different, something better. It reminded me of a similar transformation of bread and custard to bread pudding. Do not underestimate this humble piece of cake!
If you think I was happy with how the horchata and tres leches cake turned out, I hope you saw the smile on my face when I took the first bite of my carnitas taco (recipe here, free to download this week!). I filled soft whole wheat tortillas with cabbage slaw, guacamole, and pineapple salsa before nestling sizzling pieces of pulled pork on top of everything. It was heavenly. Traditional way of making carnitas involves a long braise before frying the pork pieces in lots of lard. So. Not. My. Style. ATK offers a much easier alternative. The braised pork was dressed in reduced cooking liquid and broiled to crispy perfection in the oven. How convenient! This would be easy to serve at a party too. I can make everything ahead and simply broil the carnitas just before serving. I knew I found a new family favourite when Little Brother insisted on having “just one more piece” multiple times!
What shall we make for our next Taco Night?