A quick history lesson: Cinco de Mayo was born on the fifth day of the fifth month of the year 1862, when General Ignacio Zaragoza, with the support of local civilians and Zacapoaxtla Indians, led 2,000 poorly equipped Mexican soldiers to victory over 6,000 French cavalry and infantrymen at the Battle of Puebla. Though Zaragoza’s success was short-lived — the following year, French forces swept through Puebla en route to Mexico City, where they managed to overthrow the still-young Mexican Republic — his victory lives on in Mexico, where Cinco de Mayo is a minor national holiday, primarily observed in Puebla and Mexico City. And also more obscurely but perhaps more passionately, in the United States, where in recent decades Cinco de Mayo has morphed into a major festival of Chicano culture.
It’s with this latter, domestic incarnation in mind that, for this month’s cookbook recommendations, I have plucked some choice morsels detailing the remarkable contributions of Mexican-Americans to regional cooking in the United States. So, just in time for Cinco de Mayo, here is a virtual tour of Mexican-influenced border cooking — from Tex-Mex to Cal-Mex, with a stop along the way in Santa Fe, N.M. — in four cookbooks that beautifully sketch the cultural wellsprings from which these regional cuisines were born.
Get my recommendations
If you’re starting to think of the perfect Mother’s Day gift for the mom in your life, FN Dish is about to make it easier for one lucky reader. The editors have collected several cookbooks from superstar moms and Food Network chefs, and Food Network has bundled them together for a giveaway. Whether you keep them for yourself or gift them, this is the ultimate literary treat.
We’re giving away a collection of cookbooks from Food Network chefs, featuring:
Alex Guarnaschelli’s Old-School Comfort Food
Melissa d’Arabian’s Ten Dollar Dinners
Marcela Valladolid’s Mexican Made Easy
Gina Neely’s The Neelys’ Celebration Cookbook
Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Read official rules before entering
There is an abundance of leftover recipe ideas in the days following Easter — eggs, ham and more eggs. But what about all that candy? If you find yourself with more marshmallow chicks than you know what to do with in your Easter baskets tomorrow, our resident “Esther Bunny” from Food Network Kitchens will show you how to transform them into a treat you’ll be craving all year long: whoopie pies, or whoopeeps. Click on the play button above to watch Esther (in proper attire for the holiday) take a classic Easter candy and make it a dessert that will have your whole family hopping to the table.
It’s Easter morning, your kids have just finished opening their baskets and guests should be arriving for brunch in a few hours. What comes next is the mad holiday dash that inevitably involves tidying the house, setting the table and quickly prepping, cooking and serving a meal, all while attempting to enjoy the morning with your family. Sounds like Easter Sunday at your home, right?
This year, instead of settling for a hectic holiday, look to already made dishes to pull off a stress-free celebration. The secret to easy entertaining is doing as much of the prep work as possible before the day of the event so you can enjoy the party like a guest and not as a frenzied host. That means tonight is when to begin preparations for tomorrow’s brunch. Before you go to sleep, put together a few ready-to-go classics, then look forward to waking up to only the very last steps of cooking to complete. Check out Food Network’s favorite brunch standbys below to find crowd-pleasing recipes from Alton, Paula and Giada that can be made well in advance of tomorrow’s meal.
A deliciously gooey treat that kids and kids at heart will enjoy, Alton’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (pictured above) are a top-rated treat bursting with indulgent sweetness. After making a soft, moist dough from scratch, he wraps it around a center of buttery cinnamon sugar, then slices it into a dozen plump rolls. Let them chill in the refrigerator overnight, then bake them in the morning before finishing them with a thick spread of rich cream cheese icing. Watch this video to see Alton make them.
Keep reading for more recipes
Ham: Baked, smoked, spiral, glazed and more, it’s usually the centerpiece of the Easter table (and it is delicious). But what about lamb? Why does it usually take a back seat when certain cuts of the meat tend to be so forgiving? Skipping the ham and introducing something new to the table might cause an uproar, but serving lamb is highly encouraged — at least make it a new addition alongside the ham. So where do you start? We asked chef and butcher Adam Sappington of The Country Cat Dinner House and Bar in Portland, Ore., to start us off in the right direction.
The most-common cuts of lamb used around Easter are definitely legs (like the Herbed Leg of Lamb by Food Network Magazine pictured above) or chops. He states that, “As the weather warms up, folks tend to move away from heavy braising cuts like shoulder and start looking for leaner cuts that give off that essence of spring grasses.” For an Easter celebration, Adam recommends using a leg of lamb — it’s the easiest and most forgiving to cook, the most versatile, arguably the most traditional and it can be altered to feed small parties or large gatherings. This Grilled Leg of Lamb With Creamed Peas and Wild Mushrooms is perfect for family gatherings, as it is a showstopper but wont break the bank.
Keep reading for more tips
I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but I can no longer bear to go out to brunch. I hate the long waits and the fact that once you do get a table, your meal proceeds at breakneck speed so the restaurant can turn your table. (I don’t dispute their right to do so. I just don’t enjoy rushing through a meal.)
And then there are the prices. As someone who does a lot of grocery shopping and cooking, I know just how much things cost, and the markups on things like pancakes, scrambled eggs and toast make me a little twitchy.
So these days, I stay home and have people over for brunch instead of meeting at a restaurant. It keeps my blood pressure in check and means that I get to flex some underutilized cooking skills.
In pursuit of brunch excellence, I’ve worked my way through crepes, homemade bagels and English muffins. While I’ve got my sights set on conquering the aebleskiver in the somewhat near future, at the moment I’m focused on making a great quiche. The thing that’s so great about quiche is that it can be made ahead and reheated. Served with a green salad and a slice of crispy bacon, it makes for a fairly fuss-free entertaining experience.
Before you start baking your quiche, read these tips:
With Easter right around the corner, it’s never too soon to start planning — the sooner you create a plan, the more organized the day will be and you’ll wind up enjoying it more yourself.
I’m hosting Easter again this year — it’s become somewhat of a tradition. Or maybe it’s the fact that everyone knows I’m going to cook up a storm so they are all always open to coming to my house. Either way, I love it. I get to decide what’s on the menu and make things I think will please a crowd.
This year I’m going heavy on the appetizers. I want to host a fun outdoor party with plenty of cocktails and lots of delicious appetizers for my guests to choose from. That way they get to taste a lot of different things without getting totally stuffed from the ham. Not to fear, though, there will absolutely be ham, but I’m incorporating it in a little bit of a different way this time. By eliminating the centerpiece of the large-baked ham, it takes the pressure off of the long cook time and preparation. The recipes below incorporate classic flavors you’d see on an Easter table, but in a casual form — perfect for entertaining a large or small crowd.
Click here to get the menu
Easter’s coming a bit earlier than usual this year, and given the stress of meal planning and shopping for basket trinkets, it’s no wonder that you may not have had time — or even simply remembered — to carve out moments and enjoy the holiday with your kids. This weekend, spend some time with your little ones coloring eggs, decorating the house with all things chicks and bunnies or baking sweet treats to celebrate the holiday. We’ve rounded up a few of Food Network’s favorite Easter desserts, like cakes in the shape of almost-too-cute-to-eat bunnies and larger-than-life Peeps, plus springtime cupcakes and cookies, to help you make the most of your time in the kitchen. Read on below for some of our top recipes, then tell us in the comments what you’re baking for Easter.
Food Network Kitchens’ top-rated Easter Bunny Cake (pictured above) may look like an all-day adventure to prepare, but it actually takes just one hour to complete. The key to this recipe is starting with pre-baked cakes (pick up a few store-bought boxed mixes to make the process a cinch) and being patient when it comes to shaping them. Check out this step-by-step guide to learn how to best slice and arrange the cakes into an eventual bunny, then let your kids decorate it with fluffy frosting, shredded coconut for the look of fur and candy to add a nose, eyes and whiskers. Even if your cake looks more like a misshapen snowball than Peter Cottontail, it will surely be deliciously sweet in the end.
Keep reading for more recipes
My cousin Amy starts planning for Passover in January. The save-the-date email comes first, with the time and location in bold (though they’re the same every year). A few weeks later, dinner assignments follow. Later there are email reminders and carpool arrangements.
It used to be that I willingly accepted whatever meal assignment was handed to me. In recent years, however, I’ve gotten more strategic. As soon as the first Seder planning email goes out, I reply with an offer of what I’d like to bring. This way, I can ensure there will be something on the table that my picky husband will eat, and I get to play to my strengths as a cook.
On Monday (and for the second year running), I’m bringing brisket and a flourless chocolate cake. I bring the brisket because I make a good one, and I do the cake, well, because nothing finishes a meal like a good chocolate cake.
Before you start baking, read these tips
It’s no surprise to see an abundance of flourless chocolate cakes and incredible matzo bark covered in chocolate and butter during Passover — leavened products are forbidden during the holiday, so decadent substitutions are available. In the most-recent issue of Food Network Magazine, the Test Kitchens prepared five cakes without using all-purpose flour (pictured above is Flourless Red Velvet Cake, get more recipes below) to try at home and the results were tremendous. That led us to picking baker and co-owner of Breads Bakery in New York City Uri Scheft’s brain, to dive a little deeper into the subject. The world of starches, flours and desserts is so vast and can be overwhelming — so we turned to an expert.
What would kosher potato starch do to a cake? What type of cakes would you use this substitution in?
Uri Scheft: Potato starch sucks all of the liquid out, but because of the lack of gluten, it doesn’t really bind the ingredients. It leads to a more crumby, more dense cake that hasn’t risen as much. It is good for brownies because they don’t need to rise a lot. Additionally, they are better when not cooked completely through.
Read more »