Calaveras Cantina – Jupiter, FL

Working in south Florida recently, I happened on this modern Mexican restaurant that’s a game-changer.  You can find all manner of terribly ordinary Mexican restaurants around the country with typical fare and average food.  However, when we stepped into this beautiful spot with authentic fare and a modern twist, we were psyched!  By land or by sea, a stop at Calaveras Cantina in Harbourside Place will be well worth your trip.

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We walked into the bright open space and were greeted by friendly staff and the aroma of onions, spices and fried deliciousness.  The space is quite large with a bar, comfortable booths and outdoor seating to enjoy Jupiter’s weather and harbor.  The bright wall decorations and colorful glass lighting make for a lively environment.  We settled into the menu while sipping some Casa Margaritas.  There’s a lengthy selection of margaritas and other cocktails, available by the glass or pitcher (dangerous!).  You should try their Watermelon Jalapeño for a sweet-hot twist on the original.

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There was no doubt we needed fresh corn tortilla chips.  We also quickly realized that table side guacamole was a no-brainer.  Fresh, creamy, spicy and citrusy, it was the perfect pairing with our margaritas and chips.  I was impressed with the servers who were attentive and clearly “guac experts”!  There’s a dizzying selection of traditional favorites on the menu with a modern twist – think duck confit empanadas or pork belly tacos with kimchi.  I settled on the traditional tacos al pastor with spicy pork, pineapple, cilantro and chihuahua cheese.  How happy were my tastebuds??  Wow!

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I don’t get to Jupiter enough, but when I do, I will certainly make Calaveras Cantina a regular stop for lunch or dinner.  Whether a casual afternoon lunch or dinner with clients, this is an experience that everyone will appreciate.  Curtis Peery and friends have built a fantastic concept that warrants kudos on many levels – food, service and atmosphere.  Check out more of Palm Beach’s tequila-serving gem at calaverascantina.com.  Dig in!

Beef Tongue Tacos (Tacos de Lingua)

When we had an opportunity to split a whole steer with some neighbors, we jumped at the chance.  My first question was, “does anyone want the weird parts?”  Luckily for me, no one did and I ended up with a beef tongue.  What do you do with a beef tongue?  Well, you make the best tacos you’ve ever had!  The richest beef lays a perfect foundation for all your favorite south-of-the-border toppings in this easy dish.

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BEEF TONGUE TACOS

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Lbs. Beef Tongue
  • 4 Shallots, Diced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Smashed
  • 1 Tbs. Salt
  • 1 Tbs. Black Peppercorns
  • 3 Whole Bay Leaves
  • 2 Tbs. Canola Oil
  • Small Corn Tortillas
  • 1 Avocado, Diced
  • Pickled Red Onions
  • Queso Fresco, Grated

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Instructions

  • Rinse beef tongue thoroughly and place in a medium stock pot.
  • Place shallots, garlic cloves, salt, peppercorns and bay leaves in with the tongue.
  • Cover completely with water and place on stove on medium heat covered until boiling.
  • Turn down heat and simmer with lid cracked for 3 hours.  You may need to add some liquid along the way to ensure the tongue remains covered.  HINT:  the skin on the tongue will turn bright white – that’s OK!
  • At 3 hours, take the pot off heat.  Remove tongue from liquid and place on a cutting board until you are able to handle.
  • Using a sharp knife to start it, peel the outer skin from the tongue completely.  Remove any excess fat or connective tissue.
  • Dice meat into 1-inch cubes.
  • In a cast iron skillet, sauté meat in canola oil until edges are crispy, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove meat and drain on paper towels.
  • Serve immediately, assembling tacos with meat and toppings listed in ingredients.

If you can get past the idea of the tongue, you’ll experience the richest tender beef you’ve ever had.  With it’s deep flavor, it stands up to spicy salsa, the bite of pickled red onions, creamy avocado and salty queso fresco.  (SIDE NOTE:  Don’t buy pickled onions!  Dissolve 3 Tbs. sugar and 1 1/2 Tbs. salt in 1 cup white vinegar over low heat.  Add 1 Tsp. black peppercorns and pour the hot liquid over a thinly sliced large red onion.  Allow to cool and store covered in the refrigerator.)  The combinations are endless, but the star of the show is the beef that can taste you back!  My friend Marcos would be so proud of me.  Dig in!

Spicy Pasole

Not every Tuesday has to be tacos!  When we still have a taste for something “south of the border” and it’s turning to fall, spicy pasole hits the spot.  A flavorful broth spiced with chiles chock-full of tender pork and creamy hominy, this is a hearty fall/winter dish that you’ll make a new Tuesday tradition.

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SPICY PASOLE

Ingredients

  • 3 Lbs. Pork Shoulder or Boneless Country Ribs
  • 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Large Tomato
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 3 Chiles in Adobo Sauce, Chopped
  • 2 Tbs. Adobo Sauce
  • 2 – 29 Ounce Cans White Hominy, Drained
  • 1 Quart Chicken Stock
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 2 Tbs. Canola Oil
  • 2 Tsp. Mexican Oregano
  • 2 Tsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Diced Avocado, Sliced Radish & Shredded Cabbage (for garnish)

Instructions

  • Cut pork shoulder into 1 1/2-inch cubes.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  • In a ceramic-coated iron pot, brown half the pork in 1 Tbs. canola oil.  Remove from pot and brown the other half of the pork in an additional Tbs. canola oil.  Remove from pot.  You do not need to cook it through as it will braise later.
  • Add diced onion and minced garlic to pot and cook over medium heat until translucent.
  • Dice and seed tomato.  Place in pot with onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes.  Add chopped chiles and adobo sauce.  Stir to combine.
  • Add chicken stock to onion mixture and stir to deglaze pot.
  • Add water, oregano, chili powder and paprika.  Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  • Add pork back in as well as both cans of hominy.
  • Simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve immediately and garnish with avocado, radish and cabbage.

You can spice this version up with additional chiles, hot sauce or sliced jalapeños.  The combination of spicy, rich stew is complimented by the cool cabbage, bite of radish and creamy avocado.  Taste for yourself, you’ll make the Tuesday change too.  Dig in!

Breakfast Quesadillas

Feel like heading a little south of the border for breakfast?  In honor of Cinco de Mayo last weekend, I made these simple quesadillas.  Gooey cheese, salty bacon and creamy scrambled eggs are the perfect filling for a crispy tortilla.  The filling possibilities are endless – try these next weekend and change up your morning routine.

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BREAKFAST QUESADILLAS

Ingredients

  • 4 8-inch Flour Tortillas
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 8 Strips Crispy Bacon, Crumbled
  • 2 Cups Shredded Cheddar-Jack Cheese
  • 3 Green Onions, Chopped
  • Salsa, Hot Sauce and/or Sour Cream For Garnish

Instructions

  • Place eggs and milk in a bowl and whisk until combined.
  • Scramble in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  • Cook eggs until almost dry, remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.
  • Wipe skillet clean and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place a single tortilla in the skillet over medium-low heat.  Sprinkle entire tortilla with 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
  • On 1/2 of the tortilla, spread out 1/4 of the scrambled eggs, 1/4 of the bacon and green onion to taste.
  • When cheese begins to melt, use a spatula to fold half of the tortilla over onto the side covered in the eggs/bacon.
  • When the bottom is golden brown, flip over entire tortilla to brown the other side.
  • Remove from heat, cut into thirds and serve with your favorite toppings/sides.

One of these is enough for one person so this recipe makes enough for four.  Like a little spice?  Try using chorizo, roasted poblanos and pepper jack cheese.  You can also use sausage and green peppers.  There’s really no limit, but keep the proportions right or it won’t close properly.  Do you have a brunch coming up?  Double this recipe and place wedges in a warming tray for a perfect buffet finger food.  Let me know what combinations you come up with – I’d love to hear your ideas!  Dig in!

Southwest Blackened Chicken Rice Bake

Do you ever have a taste for something, but not quite sure what?  Working from home today I really wanted to put something on the smoker, especially in 60-degree weather.  I was craving spicy Tex-Mex flavors though too and wanted to come up with something that would combine the two while using ingredients we already had in the house.  The result was a cheesy spicy rice casserole with smoked chicken.  While you don’t have to fire up the smoker to make this dish, the flavor was outstanding!

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SOUTHWEST BLACKENED CHICKEN RICE BAKE

Ingredients

  • 2 Bone-In Chicken Breasts
  • 3 Tbs. Blackening Seasoning – I love Hog’s Breath
  • 1 1/2 Cups Uncooked White Short Grain Rice
  • 1 1/2 Cups Black Bean Salsa
  • 1 Cup Medium Salsa
  • 1 1/2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Corn Kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 6-8 Green Onions, Chopped
  • Sour Cream & Hot Sauce For Garnish

Instructions

  • Wash and dry chicken breasts.  Rub in blackening seasoning on all sides.
  • Smoke offset from heat over mesquite or your favorite wood for 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees until internal temp is 180 degrees.  You can also bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or they reach the same internal temperature of 180 degrees.  Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a 2-quart baking dish place rice, both salsas, water, corn, salt and pepper.
  • Remove skin and take chicken off bone.  Shred into bite-size pieces and add all meat to the casserole dish.  Mix all ingredients with a spoon until well combined.
  • Cover dish with foil and bake at 375 for 1 hour.
  • Remove from oven.  Check rice to make sure it’s tender.  If not, you can add a bit more water or chicken stock, stir, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  • Spread shredded cheese over top of the casserole and place under a broiler until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately.  Top each plate with chopped green onion,  sour cream and hot sauce to taste.

When I first baked this, I didn’t allow for enough liquid and had to add more to finish the rice cooking.  However, the recipe above should yield a perfect result!  I know you and your family will love this stick-to-your-ribs dish that gives just the right amount of bite set off by the bright flavors of green onion and sour cream.  And if you like to smoke, I would highly recommend the smoked chicken over the baked, it was awesome.  Dig in!

Layered Taco Dip

Who doesn’t love the crunchy-cool combo of taco dip while watching a big game?  I’ve made and eaten a lot of versions in the past, but I do love this cold combination versus a baked one.  It’s perfect for transporting or tailgating as well since you don’t have to worry about keeping it warm.

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LAYERED TACO DIP

Ingredients

  • 1 16-Ounce Can Refried Beans
  • 2 Tbs. Water
  • 16 Ounces Sour Cream
  • 1 Envelope Taco Seasoning
  • 3 Green Onions, Chopped
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Lettuce
  • 3 Small Tomatoes, Seeded and Diced
  • 1 Bag Tortilla Chips or Fritos

Instructions

  • In a 13 x 9 baking dish, place refried beans, water and half of the taco seasoning.  Mix well and then spread into an even layer in pan.  The water helps to loosen the beans and make them more “dippable”.
  • Put the remaining taco seasoning into sour cream container and mix well.  Spread in an even layer on top of beans.
  • Sprinkle green onions on sour cream mixture.  Top with lettuce and then finally with diced tomato.
  • Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
  • Serve with chips for dipping.

This is a popular dish every time we take it somewhere!  I do love using Fritos Scoops with it, but good sturdy restaurant-style tortilla chips are great too.  Once you taste it, you’ll know that anything you put in it is a winner!  Try it for your next tailgate or at your Halloween party this weekend.  Dig in and enjoy!

Tortilla Roll-Ups

I love a good party and even more so love great party snacks!  Appetizers can fall into a rut of traditional dips and platters of veggies.  I love small bites so I have TONS of great take-and-eat appetizer recipes.  Try this recipe for perfect southwest bites – it might just be a hit for your picnic today or a party in the near future!  Either way, I’m sure it will be a new favorite to add to your go-to recipe box…

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TORTILLA ROLL-UPS

Ingredients

  • 1 Package Large Flour Tortillas (10)
  • 3 8-Ounce Bricks of Cream Cheese
  • 3 Tbs Taco Seasoning
  • 5-6 Green Onions, Chopped
  • 1 Small Can Chopped Green Chiles, Drained
  • 1 Cub Shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack Cheese
  • 1 Jar Salsa (for dipping)

Instructions

  • Set out cream cheese to come to room temperature.  Place in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth.
  • Add taco seasoning and chiles and mix with mixer until incorporated.
  • Add green onions and cheese and thoroughly mix with hand mixer.  Use a spatula to scrape sides of the bowl and make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • With a spatula, spread cream cheese filling in a thin layer (about 1/4 inch) on each tortilla and then roll up.  This amount of filling should cover 10 tortillas.
  • Place rolled tortillas in refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up.
  • Cut ends off of chilled rolls and then slice into 1-inch slices.  Arrange on a platter by themselves or around a small bowl.
  • Serve with your favorite salsa for dipping.

These small bites pack a lot of flavor and provide the right combination of creamy and spicy.  Want to kick it up a notch?  Try using pickled jalapeño instead of green chiles.  Don’t like taco seasoning?  Try using ranch dressing mix.  There’s a lot of possibilities and all of them will be crowdpleasers.  Dig in!