Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Mexican Birthday Fiesta

Me (Danielle Rose), making my birthday wish
Birthdays were the worst days. I always used to agree with Biggie on that statement, that is until this year. When I was younger I used to love celebrating my birthday, coming up with a fun theme, bringing all my friends together, eating my favourite foods, and, of course, unwrapping all of my birthday presents. But as I got older and birthdays turned into just getting smashed at a club with whichever friends you could drag out with you (which always felt like pulling teeth!) I fell out of love with birthdays. It always felt like too much trouble to try and plan something myself and get everyone together in one place...and let's be honest, clubs are THE WORST. I would always end up stressing about it till the very last minute, ultimately being left with no plans at all, and merely sharing a drink and perhaps some mediocre food with whoever would show up. Each year my birthday felt less and less like a celebration and more of a reminder of what I felt I lacked in my life and just how quickly time flies. This year, with a new positive attitude, I wanted to prove myself and Biggie wrong and make my birthday fantastic! With Mexican being one of my favourite cuisines, and a beautiful house begging to have a party in it, I decided to hose a Mexican Birthday Fiesta at home!
All I have ever really wanted for my birthday is to be surrounded by good food and drinks, good friends, and most of all, feel loved. Simple requests, I know, but I haven't been able to experience a birthday like that since I was 16 years old (I'll always remember how loved and accepted you made me feel that night when you surprised me for karaoke and Tiffany's Robyn, Leigh, Sari, Haley, and Robby!). My Mexican Fiesta at home proved to be exactly what I needed to make my dream birthday a reality. With almost all of my favourite people in attendance, a delicious Mexican feast (if I do say so myself), lots of alcohol, and a killer playlist prepared by moi, I couldn't have asked for a better birthday! I felt so loved having all of these incredible people that I think the world of showing up to celebrate with me! Despite one hell of a hangover and a few regrets (yeah, I blacked out after blowing out my birthday candles), I woke up the next day with a smile on my face, feeling exhilarated about what my 24th year will bring! Thank you so much to all of my beautiful friends for making me feel so special and always being there for me! I couldn't ask for a better bunch of hooligans to call my friends! I can't end this post without also thanking my amazing parents for not only helping with the preparation of the party and cleaning up everything (seriously that was incredible!), but for also being so cool (I'm gonna regret saying that) with my friends and getting the tequila flowing! I love you!

Birthday Menu
No party of mine is complete without delicious food! For my Mexican Birthday Fiesta I wanted to make sure I had enough food for all my guests to enjoy all night long, so I used both my own homemade dishes and purchased dishes and sides to complete my menu so that I wouldn't be stuck in the kitchen all day stressing. The highlight of the Mexican feast was of course my Pulled Pork Tacos with Salsa Verde and Corn and Black Bean Salad. I doubled up my usual pulled pork recipe to make sure I had enough to go around (boy did I ever!), and just tossed in a few extra ingredients to add a little more heat than usual. I set up a topping bar next to the pulled pork to allow my guests to top their tacos with their favourites such as freshly squeezed lime, onions, a selection of salsas, and fresh cilantro. Although I had initially thought of serving my Corn and Black Bean Salad as a side, I loved seeing my friends use the salad to top their tacos with! The salad turned out to be my favourite topping out of them all, adding texture, acidity, and a bit of sweetness to the already mouthwatering taco.

Pulled Pork Tacos
(if serving pork for a party, double the recipe)
3 1/2 pound pork shoulder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1/4 cup beef broth (may substitute with other type of broth or just splash in a little cider vinegar to loosen the brown bits on the bottom of the pot)
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 chipotle peppers + 2 tbsp adobo sauce (purchase chipotles in adobo sauce in a can)
1 cup chili sauce
1 cup your favourite barbeque sauce
1 can of Coca Cola

1. Season pork with salt and pepper on all sides. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown pork on all sides and transfer to slow cooker.

2. In the heavy-bottomed pot cook the onions, garlic, and chili powder until onions have softened. Pour in the beef broth and, using a wooden spoon, scrape off all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Transfer mixture to slow cooker.

3. Add the brown sugar,Worcestershire sauce, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, chili sauce, barbeque sauce, and Coca Cola to the slow cooker and stir to combine.

4. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or until pork is tender. Remove pork and transfer to a large baking dish and shred using two forks. While shredding pork, increase heat to high. Add shredded pork back into the slow cooker, reduce heat back to low, and cook for another hour. Serve with corn tortillas and your favourite toppings!

Salsa Verde
1 lb tomatillos (about 12-15), husks removed, washed, and cut in half
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
2-3 jalapeno peppers, stems removed
olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
juice from 1/2 of a lime

1. Place tomatillos, onions, and peppers in a baking dish. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.

2. Bake in a 350ยบ oven for 15-20 minutes. The tomatillos should be nice and soft at this point. Set aside to cool.

3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatillos, onions, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Process to form a smooth textured puree as necessary for the desired consistency.

4. Transfer to a serving bowl. The salsa can be kept for 1 week in the refrigerator in an airtight container or jar.

Corn and Black Bean Salad
3 fresh cobs of corn, husks and silks removed
1/2 can black beans, strained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
4-5 large basil leaves, chopped into small pieces
the juice of 1 1/2 limes
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Using a serrated knife (I found that easier) cut the corn kernels off of the cob trying to cut as close to the cob as possible. Place in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Stir in the black beans, red pepper, red onion, and basil.

3. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper. Drizzle over corn mixture and stir to combine. Let chill in fridge until ready to serve. May make day ahead.

Listening To:
Pink Floyd-Speak to Me-Breathe

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