3 Authentic Mexican Recipes for Cinco de Mayo from Acclaimed Chef Diana Dávila

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, Chicago Chef Diana Dávila is sharing three authentic recipes that you can make at home. Dávila, executive chef and owner of Mi Tocaya Antojería in Logan Square, started working in her parent’s taqueria at the age of 10. Now, she is cooking up her native Mexican cuisine to rave reviews and dozens of accolades, including being named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs and seeing Mi Tocaya Antojería honored as a James Beard Semi-Finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2018.  

“When eating Diana’s food there is no doubt about her fearlessness when it comes to layering flavors. It’s always a pleasure to see a chef who is fully in command of her vision” says Marcus Samuelsson, the acclaimed chef behind many restaurants worldwide, including Red Rooster Harlem.

Pair the below recipes with a spicy margarita or cold cerveza, and you have the perfect Mexican-themed evening.

Recipes are courtesy of Today’s Special cookbook by Phaidon as shared by Fine Dining Lovers.

Serves 8–10

1 ounce (28 g) garlic
2 ounces (56 g) serrano chilies, sliced
4 avocados, halved and pitted
Grated zest and juice of 3 limes

In a blender, puree the garlic and serranos (or muddle with a pestle and mortar). Scoop the avocado flesh into a large stainless steel bowl and mash with a large masher. Add the garlic/chili mixture to the smashed avocado in stages, slowly folding it in and tasting as you go (to make sure the guacamole is not too garlicky or spicy). Do not over mash the avocados. Add lime zest and more lime juice. Salt if needed.

Ensalada de Nopales Burrata
Serves 4-6

Ingredients for the Ensalada de Nopales
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 pounds (910g) Cactus (look for nopales in brine or brine at home) 
¼ cup (60 ml) Lime Vinaigrette (see recipe)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces (115 g) burrata
1 cup (240 ml) Tomato Aderezo (see recipe)
½ head cauliflower, shaved
1 bunch cilantro (fresh coriander)

For the Lime Reduction
Makes 6 ounces (170g)
2 cups (487.5 g) lime juice
4 ounces (112.5 g) sugar
In a saucepan, combine the lime juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced by one-quarter.

For the Lime Vinaigrette 
Makes 500ml
3 ounces (85g) Lime Reduction (see recipe)
1 cup (240 ml) sunflower oil 
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (240 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) lime juice
Sea salt
Place the lime reduction in a stainless steel bowl. Whisk the oils in slowly. Finish with the lime juice and check for salt.

For the Tomato Aderezo 
Makes 1.5l and remainder can be frozen 
12 tomatoes, diced and salted for 30 minutes
4 serrano chilies, charred
5 ounces (141g) lime juice
5 ounces (141g) roasted garlic oil
In a pot, bring the tomatoes to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 20–30 minutes.
Add the serranos. Transfer to a blender and purée super fine. Blend in the lime juice then the roasted garlic oil.

Start by making the lime reduction by combining the lime juice and sugar in a saucepan and bringing to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced by one-quarter and set to one side. Then make the lime vinaigrette by placing the lime reduction in a stainless steel bowl, whisk the oils in slowly, finish with the lime juice and check for salt. Then make the Tomato Aderezo by adding the tomatoes to a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 20–30 minutes. Add the serranos, transfer to a blender and purée super fine. Blend in the lime juice then the roasted garlic oil.

To Serve
In a large bowl, toss the red onions and nopales with the lime vinaigrette. Lightly season with salt and black pepper. To plate, place in a low bowl with burrata in the center. Top the burrata with the tomato aderezo. Top with shaved cauliflower and garnish with cilantro (coriander).

Enchiladas ‘Potosinas’ with Ensalada Fresca and Tomatillo Salsa
Makes 27 enchiladas

Enchiladas ‘Potosinas’ was made popular in San Luis, Potosi, Mexico. It’s a homemade corn tortilla infused with a red chilli sauce, filled with a cheese and salsa mix and cooked on a dry hot plate and then shallow fried for extra crispiness.

Ingredients for the Enchilada (Mexican chilli paste):
1/4 ounce (7.5 g) crushed guajillo chili (no stems/seeds)
1/4 ounce (7.5 g) crushed ancho chili (no stems/seeds)
1.5g pimentón
0.5g dried Mexican oregano
4.5g granulated onion
3.5g salt
1 ounces (27.5 g) vegetable oil
1.5 ounces (42.5g) water

For the Cheese Filling:
3.5 ounces (100 g) grated queso Sincho
3.5 ounces (100 g) grated queso fresco
2.5 ounces (70 g) sauce for Cheese Filling (see recipe)

For the Cheese Filling Sauce: 
4 ounces (112.5g) charred tomatillos
1/2 charred plum tomato
3.5g charred smashed garlic, 
1 charred stemmed serrano chilies, 
1/8 cup (30 ml) sunflower oil 
Salt (optional)

For the Enchiladas Potosinas:
1/2 pound (227.5 g) masa
3/4 pounds (282.5 g) Queso Salsero (see recipe)
For the Tomatillo Salsa
2 tomatillos, quartered
1/2 serrano chili, sliced
1/2 avocado, pitted and halved
1/4 bunch cilantro (fresh coriander) chopped
0.5 ounce (14 g) lime juice

For the Ensalada Fresca:
Thinly sliced red cabbage
Finely sliced white onion
Finely julienned radish
Diagonally thinly sliced scallion (spring onion)
Avocado oil
Lime juice

Make the Enchilada (chili paste):
In a stainless steel bowl, combine the chilies, pimentón, granulated onion, and salt. Mix by hand. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and to 350°F (177°C). Add the chili mixture and cook, stirring constantly so the paste fries evenly but does not burn. Add a touch of salt. Add the water. Set to 210°F (99°C), occasionally stirring, for 10 minutes, until the chilies reconstitute and turn into a paste. Let the enchilada (chili paste) completely cool before using.
Make the sauce for the Cheese Filling:
Muddle the ingredients in a pestle and mortar or coarsely blend, adding salt if needed. Transfer to a pan and bring up to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Make the Cheese Filling:
In a stainless steel bowl, hand mix the cheeses and the sauce for the Cheese Filling. Set aside for stuffing.

Make the Enchiladas Potosinas:
In a bowl, work the cooled chili paste (enchilada) into the masa with your hands until it’s evenly incorporated. Hand-press a ball of masa (about 15 g) into a thin tortilla round (use a plastic bag as a liner so it doesn’t stick). Cook the tortilla on a hot flattop. Only cook the tortilla on one side—it should be raw on the other side (making it adhesive). Remove from the heat and place about 1 teaspoon of the queso salsero mixture in the center. Fold the tortilla in half, enclosing the stuffing and pinching the seams. Return to the flattop to dry the masa on both sides and bind the ingredients. Let cool. To finish, lightly panfry or sear on the flattop until both sides are crisp. Do not deep fry!

Make the Tomatillo Dressing:
In a blender puree all the ingredients until silky smooth. Taste for salt.

Make the Ensalada Fresca:
In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, onion, radish, and scallion (green onion). Toss with avocado oil, lime juice, and salt to taste. Dress with Tomatillo Dressing. Serve the enchiladas with Ensalada Fresca on the side.

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Macaire Douglas

Macaire Douglas lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to prevent the illegal abandonment of newborns nationwide. Since its inception in 2000, more than 3,600 newborns have been safely surrendered and adopted into loving homes.

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