The scene: Christmas Eve, Sun Valley, Idaho: single-digit temperatures and feet and feet of snow. Some might call it a winter wonderland. So, it was clearly meant for Mexican food, right? We had my world-famous vegetarian chili (you can feed it to carnivorous men; I swear they won't know the difference, and I'm from Texas, so believe me when I say I know my chili and the men in my life do, too), guacamole, green-chile cornbread, pomegranate margaritas, and Mexican train dominoes. It's a fiesta!!!
First off, the margaritas. Ay carumba, they were good!! We made them by the pitcher, but you could do 'em by the glass as well:
1 part silver tequila
1 part fresh-squeezed lime juice (and I think we squeezed about 15 of them)
1 part orange-infused simple syrup*
1/2 part 100% pomegranate juice
Wipe a lime wedge around a rocks glass and dip in flaked kosher salt. Fill with ice and pour it up! Garnish with lime wedge.
*To make the orange-infused simple syrup, bring one cup sugar and one cup water plus a couple of heaping tablespoons of freshly grated orange zest to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, let cool on the stove and pour through a fine-mesh strainer.
These margaritas pack a wallop of tart, so you can cut them with a splash or two of club soda or 7-Up to give them some bubbles if you like.
Next up- guacamole. I go simple and traditional (no tomatoes). Dice up 2-3 ripe avocados (I halve them, cut a grid right in the skin, and scoop out the cubes with a spoon), add 1/4-1/2 C minced red onion, a VERY generous handful of fresh chopped cilantro, 1 large garlic clove, finely minced, then mashed with salt into a paste, and the juice of one lime. Mash with the fork and for Pete's sake, please don't puree it. It's better chunky. Serve with your personal chip preference (mine is restaurant style white corn tortilla chips).
Now for the chili. It's wicked easy, and you can do it in a stock pot or a slow-cooker. I happen to think it tastes better the longer it cooks, so if you have the time, go for the slow cooker.
In a large skillet (or your stock pot) on the stove, sweat a large onion, chopped, in a bit of oil. Once it starts giving up its liquid, I go ahead and add my spices: chili powder, cumin, coriander, celery seed, paprika, cayenne, and hot pepper flakes. My personal preference is about 4 T of chili powder and 1-2 t of the others- but certainly you can use your own blend (or even buy a packet if that's easier for you). Move this mixture to the slow-cooker, or just keep going if you're cooking it stovetop. Then add 3 15 oz. cans of beans- I use 1 each of dark red kidney, light red kidney, and pinto- 1 large can (28 oz.) of crushed tomatoes, 1 small can of tomato pastes, and 1 regular can of tomato sauce, and 1 package of TVP (soy crumbles). Seriously, don't be scared- the texture is perfect and no one will know. (If you have to use meat, just cook a pound of ground carcass in a separate skillet before adding it to the chili.) Cook on high until bubbly, then reduce to low for 5-6 hours (stovetop method: bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until all your flavors are melded). Serve over fritos, topped with chopped white onion, fresh cilantro, and grated cheese.
Finally, the cornbread. I got this trick from Paula Deen, I think, and it's simply scrumptious. Make your own cornbread recipe, or use a box (not going to lie- I usually go Jiffy), but when it's time to pour it into its baking dish, only pour in half. Then spread a layer of grated cheese and a small can of drained mild green chilies, THEN add in the rest of the cornbread. Cook like normal but you get an ooey, gooey, tangy surpise in the middle of each bite.
Then play Mexican train dominoes- all 13 hands, and it just gets more fun with each passing margarita. :) Feliz navidad, mis amigos.