Cinco de Mayo…in March.

Last summer, my family and I were fortunate enough to vacation in one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. There are few places on earth that possess the serene energy and vast panoramic views that Sedona, Arizona bestows on the aesthetic eye and mind. Sedona embodies a little bit of everything: the arts, culture, history, shopping, outdoor adventuring, fine cuisine, exposure to the spiritual and metaphysical realms, and above all else natural beauty that is extremely hard to come by and can’t quite be defined through the use of vernacular.

Through what seemed at the time like hearsay, my family and I started to frequent this one restaurant aptly named Elote Cafe. Situated in the valley of Sedona, this charming establishment features some of the best Mexican-inspired cuisine you will ever come across (I’m quite convinced of this). My family more than engulfed the following: seafood tacos, elote, carne asada (with Guajillo chile sauce and Shaft Blue cheese), carnitas (with a roasted tomato-chipotle sauce and guacamole), and smoked chicken enchiladas (with salsa verde and chipotle crema). Though they were all standouts, the ones that no one could seemingly stop talking about were the seafood tacos, elote, and carnitas. For those that don’t know what elote is, it’s an appetizer or “botana y plato chico” that consists of fire-roasted corn, spicy mayo, lime, Cotija cheese, a hint of Cholula hot sauce, and a small amount of sugar. By far one of my favorite things to consume on the planet. The seafood tacos with a drizzle of lime aioli were once a standout that have quickly become a staple within my immediate family.

Fast forward to March 2013, on a weekend with plenty of time to formulate and plan an epic feast. We’ve all heard the expression, “Christmas came early this year.” Well for me, Cinco de Mayo crept up on me this year in regards to the Mexican-style feast I was exposed to a few Saturdays go. Featured dishes include: pure margaritas, elote, and seafood tacos (cod and shrimp; complete with a lime-aioli sauce).

We’ll start with the margaritas to jumpstart your culinary venture:

The Pure Margarita
All recipes courtesy of Elote Cafe
Serves 1

1 1/2 oz. El Tesoro reposado
3/4 oz. Cointreau (I used Grand Marinier)
juice of 2 Mexican limes (key limes)
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup ice cubes

Pour into a shaker and shake well. Serve strained, up, with no ice to get in the way.

Elote
Serves 3

6 ears of corn, husks intact
1 cup mayonnaise 
1 Tbsp. Cholula brand hot sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tsp. kosher salt
1 Tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 Tsp. sugar
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup cotija cheese, ground or crumbled, for garnish
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, for garnish
pure-ground red chile to taste, for garnish
crispy corn tortillas for scooping

Over a medium-hot grill, roast the corn until the husks are well charred, about 5 minutes. Turn occasionally so as not to burn the side contacting the direct heat. Set the roasted ears aside until cool enough to handle, then shuck them. Cut the kernels off the cobs.

When ready to eat, mix the mayo, hot sauce, lime juice, salt, pepper, sugar, and chicken stock in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the corn kernels and warm through. Pour into a bowl and garnish with the cheese, cilantro, and ground chile. Serve immediately with crispy tortillas. Enjoy!elote
Seafood Tacos
Makes 16 tacos

Marinade:

1 ancho chile, stemmed
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. soy sauce
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. allspice

Tacos:

1 lb. cod
1/2 lb. Mexican white shrimp
3 tbsp. olive oil
lightly fried corn or flour tortillas

Bring all marinade ingredients to a simmer in a small saucepan. When the chile is softened, take the pan off the heat. When the mixture is cool, pour it into a blender and pureé. Set aside.

Chop the cod and shrimp into bite-size pieces (about one-inch cubes) and then toss the seafood with the marinade and refrigerate until ready to cook.

When ready to eat, drain the marinated seafood. heat the olive oil in a heavy wide skillet, add the seafood, and sauté, stirring, till the seafood is opaque and cooked through (it will be less tender if overcooked). Heap onto hot soft-fried tortillas and garnish. Top with your favorite garnishes.

mexican

The lime aioli isn’t necessary as the marinade is delicious in itself, especially with the addition of other garnishes. Here’s the recipe for regardless, as an added bonus:

Lime aioli
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 cloves peeled garlic
egg yolks
scant 1/4 cup lime juice
1 1/3 cups olive oil
approximately 2 tsp. water

Place everything except the water and oil in a blender and purée. With the blender at medium, add the oil in a very thin stream, very slowly, until it is all incorporated. Last, add a small amount of water and mix. Add more if it is still too thick for drizzling. If desired, you can leave some thicker for dolloping and spreading. The aioli keeps several days in the fridge and is good on sandwiches, with roast chicken, or spread in a soft-fried corn tortilla and rolled up with meaty tidbits and a drizzle of hot sauce.

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