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We'll toast that

On Cinco de Mayo, the margarita reigns. • Frozen or on the rocks, the tequila and lime cocktail will be hoisted in bars and at home parties in the upcoming days to mark the victory of a meager Mexican army over the much better armed French at the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Well, that's the official reason. • The margarita always signifies party time, but its flavors don't always have to be slurped. The tequila-lime pairing easily spills out of the glass and into a variety of dishes, both savory and sweet. Another bonus: No worry of brain freeze. Tequila and lime mingle like best buds in lusty Margarita Ice Cream courtesy of Nigella Lawson, a tequila-spiked fruit salad and zippy grilled shrimp skewers. Margarita Bundt Cake is a bright take-along dessert if you're headed to a fiesta, and if you're entertaining at home, a grilled hanger steak gets a caramelized crust from the sugar in the alcohol and citrus marinade.

All are simple and any one would add a special spin to a Cinco de Mayo menu. Most can be served in margarita glasses, the edges rimmed with coarse salt or fine sugar, depending on the contents. Look for interesting glass-rimming sugars, such as lime or vanilla, at larger liquor stores.

Tequila comes from the blue agave plant that grows in the Mexican city of the same name and elsewhere around the state of Jalisco. Not all tequilas are 100 percent blue agave. If they are, they'll let you know on the label. There is no worm at the bottom of the bottle; that's mezcal, a sharper spirit made from the maguey agave.

For cooking, there are two schools of thought about what quality tequila to use. Some say don't cook with anything that you wouldn't drink straight up and others think that the flavor of top-drawer tequila is masked by the multitude of other ingredients in most dishes. I am in the second camp. But I wouldn't say a $17 bottle of Jose Cuervo gold is the cheap stuff, though it is half the price of some trendier brands.

In the recipes that accompany this story, Jose Cuervo was indeed a good friend. The ice cream, which is almost like a frozen custard, tasted like a margarita in solid, brilliantly cold form. The beauty of this recipe is that you don't need an ice cream maker to prepare it, though a few churns would give it more air. Next time I'll try processing it. As is, it's delicious and a very different finale to a Mexican party meal.

I grilled half the Margarita Shrimp and sauteed the rest after draining off much of the marinade. As was expected, the grilled version is smoky and the grill marks make a pretty presentation. When sauteed, the shrimp become sweeter as the alcohol's sugar caramelizes in the skillet. I would recommend both cooking techniques depending on your mood and equipment.

For the steak recipe, substitute skirt or flank steak if you can't find hanger. They aren't exactly alike, but it would be a shame to toss out this recipe because of availability. It's simple and satisfying, and could become a go-to recipe, Cinco de Mayo or not. (After all, you'll need to use up the bottle of tequila.)

There's a long-held belief that the buzz-inducing properties of alcohol burn off when cooked. Well, yes and no. If the booze is added at the end of cooking, the alcohol content will be affected only minimally. In some recipes, such as the accompanying fruit salad, the tequila is not heated at all, so eaters will get the full taste and effect.

Alcohol mostly dissipates in dishes cooked for long periods, an hour or more. However, let your guests know — and know your guests — before you serve them food that includes alcohol.

Hopefully, the name of the dish will tip them off. At least they'll know you mean party business.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>easy

Hanger Steak with Margarita Marinade

1 hanger steak, about 2 pounds

Zest and juice of 2 limes

1/2 cup tequila

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for the grill

Salt

In a large bowl or casserole dish, whisk together the zest and juice of the limes, tequila, oil and a hefty pinch of salt. Add the meat to the marinade, toss to coat and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

To cook, preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan over high. Lightly brush the grill with a little oil and grill the steak until seared, 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium. Let the steak rest on a cutting board for a few minutes before slicing.

Serves 4.

Source: Rachael Ray

>>easy

Margarita Bundt Cake

1 (18.25-ounce) package white or vanilla cake mix

1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup water

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup tequila

2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as triple sec, Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Glaze:

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 tablespoon tequila

2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur

2 tablespoons lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, water, lime juice, 1/4 cup tequila and 2 tablespoons triple sec. Beat for 2 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove to rack and pour glaze over cake while still warm.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, combine confectioners' sugar with 1 tablespoon tequila, 2 tablespoons triple sec and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Mix until smooth.

Serves 10.

Source: Allrecipes.com

>>moderate

Margarita Ice Cream

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

1 ¾ cups sweetened condensed milk

3 ½ ounces (7 tablespoons) tequila

2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as triple sec, Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Juice of 6 limes and zest of 1

Make a custard by heating the cream (do not boil) in a medium saucepan, whisking it very slowly into the egg yolks in a medium bowl, and then pouring the mixture back into the cleaned saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 4 minutes. (Again, do not let boil.) Pour mixture into a clean bowl and leave to cool a little, then stir in the condensed milk, tequila and orange-flavored liqueur, lime juice and zest and then cool completely. Pour into a container with a tight-fitting lid and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Serve in margarita glasses rimmed with sugar.

Serves 8.

Source: Nigella Lawson

>>easy

Grill Margarita Shrimp

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup tequila

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as triple sec, Grand Marnier or Cointreau

2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all ingredients, except shrimp, in a medium bowl. Add shrimp, cover and marinate in refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes. Thread shrimp onto skewers and grill for 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6. Note: Shrimp, patted dry, can be sauteed.

Source: About.com

>>easy

Margarita Fruit Salad

Tequila orange liqueur dressing:

3 tablespoons tequila

3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (triple sec, Cointreau or Grand Marnier)

3 tablespoons orange marmalade

Juice of 1 lime, approximately 2 tablespoons

Salad:

4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

4 oranges, peeled, sectioned and cut in small pieces

1 small honeydew melon, rind and seeds removed, and cut in small pieces

1 small cantaloupe melon, rind and seeds removed and cut in small pieces

In a large bowl, mix together tequila, orange-flavored liqueur, orange marmalade and lime juice. Add strawberries, oranges, honeydew and cantaloupe. Stir to combine and refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend.

Serves 6.

Source: Fabulousfoods.com

We'll toast that 04/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 8:19am]

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