Stephen Fries: Mexican-inspired fare for Cinco de Mayo

In a few days it is a day for celebration. It’s Cinco de Mayo, and coincidentally, it is my birthday. The day celebrates Mexico’s victory over France in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. What I find interesting is that it is believed the day is celebrated with more gusto here in the United States, than in its native country, although it is a big celebration in Puebla. Here, it has become a celebration of Mexican heritage, culture, and of course, food and drink; similar to how we recognize Irish culture on St. Patrick’s Day. The 5th of May, is a day many prepare Mexican-inspired fare for a party, and a batch of margaritas to wash it all down; this year especially, since it falls on a weekend! To help you make Saturday’s fiesta unique and mouth-watering, these party-perfect recipes will do the trick.

For those who wish to go out and enjoy Mexican food and have some fun, restaurants, and not only Mexican ones are planning festivities and menus that go beyond guacamole, chips, and margaritas.

My cooking inspiration comes from blogs, food manufacturers’ websites and of course, cookbooks. These featured recipes are from Rio Luna, a company manufacturing canned organic jalapenos and peppers and McCormick.

I am a fan of Mexican hot chocolate, so when I saw the recipe for Jalapeno Brownies, I knew it would be perfect for a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Those who enjoy chocolate and the heat of jalapenos, this recipe from Rio Luna is a must.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk oil, sugar, eggs, jalapenos and vanilla until blended.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture. Mix just until combined. Pour into a greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until brownies pull away from sides of pan easily. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Optional: dust with powdered sugar before serving for added flavor and enhanced presentation.

I suggest for those who might just a touch of “heat,” use a little less of the jalapenos.

Brown meat in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Drain fat. Stir in seasoning mix and milk. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low; simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Spread cream cheese in a shallow microwaveable dish. Top with eat mixture. Microwave on high for 45 seconds to a minute or until cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla chips and optional garnish.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown beef in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Drain fat. Stir in seasoning mix, salsa, frozen vegetables and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans and 1 cup of the cheese until well blended. Spoon into greased 13x9 inch baking dish. Top with potato nuggets. Bake for 25 minutes or until potato nuggets are golden brown and crispy. Sprinkle with remaining cup of cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Serve with desired toppings.

For the recipe for Cheesy Taco Empanadas, visit

What chef would you like me to interview? Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me: Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. (Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to

Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner “Taking Mom Out” May 4, doors at 6 p.m., dinner and show at 7, Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, $55 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). That phrase takes on a whole new meaning when you bring her to an interactive mystery party! There may be more than one victim this time!

A Taste of Greece, May 5, 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., Saint Barbara Church Social Hall, 480 Racebrook Road, Orange, 203-795-1347. Features the well-known cuisine of the church. Treat your taste buds to Moussaka, Spanakopita, Gyro, Pastitsio, Greek Salad, Souvlaki, Baklava, Greek coffee. Enjoy a glass of wine or beer with your meal. Eat-in or Take-out. Food Items range from $4 to $13. Dessert from $1 to $3. Free admission and free parking.

The Art of Pairing Wine and Cheese, May 8, 6-7:30 p.m., Caseus Fromagerie Bistro, 93 Whitney Ave., New Haven, 203-624-3373, $45. Ever wonder just how we come up with our pairings and why they work? Join us as we demystify the art of pairing. Tickets at

Consiglio’s Cooking Demonstration and Dinner: May 10, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Learn how to make beef carpaccio, beet and asparagus salad with tarragon vinaigrette, salmon over spring vegetable Risotto, Buddino (Italian Butterscotch Pudding) Class also offered May 17 and 31.

Gathering of the Bines Beer Festival , May 19, two sessions, noon-3:00 pm and 5:00-8:00 pm, Two Roads Brewing Company, 1700 Stratford Ave., Stratford, Tastings of beer from 45+ breweries. Local food trucks will be selling food. $35 for general admission and $15 for designated drivers. 203-335-2010, Details and tickets at