Chef Rick Martinez on what meals to make for Cinco de Mayo

Rick Martinez says as a college student, his mom would always make Chili Colorado when he came home from college. “The smell and the sound were the most welcoming food memory of my life,” he says. (Photo: Laura Murray)

Before he contributed to Food52, co-hosted the Borderline Salty podcast or wrote Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico: A CookbookRick Martinez was a college student, headed home to Texas for some of his mom’s home cooking.

His favorite thing on her menu? Chili Colorado.

“My mom would always ask me, ‘OK, what do you want me to make you when you come home?’ and I always asked her to make me Chili Colorado,” Martinez tells Yahoo Life. “It’s a dish that was very traditional to Central Texas where I grew up and it has roots in northern Mexico. The way my mother made it was a pork dish stewed with red dried chilis – guajillos, anchos and a few pasillas – and I would walk in the door and the smell of the pork and the dried chilis and the cumin and the Mexican oregano would just sort of hit me.”

“I would hear my mother’s rolling pin,” recalls Martinez, who shared his mother’s recipe in Bon Appetit, which called it “the greatest recipe of all time.” “She would roll out homemade flour tortillas and the smell and the sound were the most welcoming food memory of my life.”

Martinez spoke with Yahoo Life as part of his work promoting Corona Seltzerita and says in addition to the canned hard seltzers, he’d bring lots and lots of fresh salsa to a Cinco de Mayo party.

“One thing I get asked most often is about salsa — how they up their salsa game,” he says. “I feel like salsas are easy to make and they’re fun to put your own personal spin on: Whatever you like, whatever flavors you like, whatever fruits or vegetables you like, you can just make your mark on it.”

“I would bring five or six different salsas and a couple of bags of chips, chicharrones and fried plantains and open them up and let people get at them,” he continues. “There’s something really fun about standing around a table with salsas and everyone’s standing around munching and having fun.”

For a main meal, however, Martinez says it’s all about the humble taco — with a creamy comfort-food twist.

“One of the recipes I’ve paired with the seltzers is rajas con crema,” he says. “Not only is it plant-based and veg-friendly, but it’s surprising because it’s fulfilling and super-satisfying.”

“It’s essentially a roasted poblano with onions and garlic in a light cream sauce,” he explains. “The idea of ​​putting that in a tortilla and having a taco is probably going to be very new to a lot of people, but it’s very satisfying — it’s like a very homey dish, like getting a hug from your grandmother and it’s so comforting. “

But what is Martinez’s go-to meal on a weeknight, when he’s not celebrating with friends?

“Because I spend a lot of time cooking for assignments, at the end of the week I have all of these random little bits of recipes, sauces, condiments, entrees, side dishes and salad-y things,” he says, “so I always keep a quart container full of rice in the freezer.At the end of the week, I like to pull out all the leftover bits and bobs in the fridge and throw in any leftover herbs or raw vegetables.Then I always have eggs on hand so I add eggs and make a really random but delicious fried rice.”

Martinez says while he finds that most people enjoy Mexican food, there are some parts of the US where options for good Mexican food are lacking. In a world of sometimes mediocre Mexican offerings, he believes pairing what’s available with a good drink can help, whether that’s a delicious sparkling water or a margarita.

“People are constantly seeking out bold flavors — the idea that Corona took that insight and wanted to bring bold flavors to where people are who can’t access these flavors, that’s what I am trying to do with my cookbook,” he says. “Seltzeritas really are margarita flavors in a can and they pair so well with a lot of flavors that are already in Mexican food. Plus, I love sparkling water and mineral water. Anything with fizz. I think in Mexican food, anything with that effervescence helps cut through some of the richness and heat in the food.”

(Photo: Corona/Rick Martinez)

(Photo: Corona/Rick Martinez)

Chef Rick Martinez’s Rajas con Crema

(Serves 4)

“I was in Durango at a small restaurant in which they served a dish of rajas con crema as a condiment with other assorted salsas and chiles en escabeche,” says Martinez. “I tasted it and was so completely taken, I kept asking them to bring me more. It was creamy and spicy, with a tiny bit of sweetness from the charred chiles and the onion … I love the extra heat and am crazy for These rajas as a taco filling or as a side dish for grilled meat or fish. But honestly, I could eat this right out of the skillet wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. This to me is pure comfort food.”

Ingredients

  • 8 large poblano chiles (2.2lb/1kg)

  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (1 oz/28 g)

  • 1⁄2 of a large white onion (6 oz/180 g), thinly sliced

  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

  • 1 1⁄8 teaspoons kosher salt (0.28 oz/8 g)

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 3⁄4 cup crema, crème fraîche or sour cream

  • Flour tortillas for serving

Instructions

  1. To roast the chiles on a gas stove: Turn all of the burners on to high and set two poblanos on each grate. Char, using tongs to turn them occasionally, until all sides are charred, for about four minutes per side.

  2. To roast the chiles in the broiler: Arrange a rack in the top position and preheat the broiler to high. Arrange the poblanos on a sheet pan and char under the broiler, turning occasionally, until all sides are charred, for two to four minutes per side.

  3. To roast the chiles on a grill: Preheat a charcoal or gas grill for high heat. Set the poblanos directly on the ridge. Char, using tongs to turn them as they char on all sides, for about four minutes per side.

  4. Transfer the chiles poblanos to a large bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes.

  5. Carefully remove the stems, peel and seeds from each chile (use gloves if you have them — poblanos can be spicy; but don’t be tempted to rinse with water, you’ll wash off all of the flavor).

  6. Cut the chiles lengthwise into ½-inch strips and set aside until ready to use.

  7. In a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium heat, melt the butter.

  8. Add the onion, garlic and salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, for six to eight minutes.

  9. Add the roasted poblanos, milk and crema and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, for about 10 minutes.

  10. Make tacos with the warm tortillas and rajas con crema.

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