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Chef Aaron Sanchez: 3 Mexican-Inspired Superbowl Dishes

Image: Short-rib tacos from Chef Aaron Sanchez

Short-rib tacos from Chef Aaron Sanchez Courtesy Aaron Sanchez

In Chef Aarón Sánchez's kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday, you won’t find a chicken wing or slice of pizza for 6400 yards. Instead, the host of Food Network’s “Chopped” and the Cooking Channel’s “Taco Trip” will have a mouthwatering spread that pops with flavor and celebrates his Mexican heritage.

The chef known as the “King of Heat” says that Latin food and the big game go hand in hand.

“Latinos love football, there’s a perception that Latinos just like soccer but it’s really not {true},” he says. “The idea of doing the boring and customary wings and ribs just doesn’t jive with me."

And it doesn’t jive we us either. Chef Aarón shared some of his favorite recipes and tips for creating a memorable Latin Super Bowl extravaganza at home; here is part of our interview:

What do you like about the idea of a Latino Super Bowl?

AS: Latin culture has always been part of the big game in America. There’s second, third generation Latinos who have grown up watching and loving football. And they know how iconic some of these recipes are. And they want to see them done really well--the food has to be on par with the big day. The recipes I created really showcase that.

What are some basic food rules for throwing a Super Bowl party?

AS: I always want to make sure that everything is presented really beautifully. Jazz it up. Make sure to have enough condiment bowls and different kinds of foods in small and large platters. Make sure that you serve foods that are easily handled with your fingers and that are easy to eat. Serve easy to prepare foods that have big bold flavors and lots of variety. Don’t be afraid to cook with heat. I want and am encouraging people to cook with the hot sauce instead of just using it as a condiment.

What is the trick to cooking with heat?

AS: When you are cooking with something like Tabasco it’s already going to have to have content that has vinegar and chiles so pair it with things that have inherent sweetness like onions and tomatoes. (Chef Aarón is the official Tabasco Chef Ambassador.) They work well with heat and it helps offset the spice level. Also, as you go through cooking process add sauce slowly. When cooking with a hot sauce it’s going to intensify heat quickly so go slow and in small batches.

Why did you choose these 3 recipes?

AS: When people come to a party they don’t want to see the same ol’ same ol’. These recipes that I created showcase that. I have a short rib taco recipe paired with a lime and Mezcal coleslaw. Inside the cooking process I added the Tabasco heat that really helps break down the fibers of the short rib and it gives it the proper acidity and spice that you need.

I created a shrimp skewer recipe with a little salsa glaze with a chipotle sauce that I just really love-- it has smoky mild heat. The third recipe I created is little albondiga sliders, little meatball sliders. This is a good mix of dishes that are finger food friendly and have a balance of heat. (See the Touchdown Tacos with Mezcal-Lime Coleslaw recipe below.)

Why is the little taco becoming so powerful?

AS: The taco is the people’s food and it’s accessible to everyone. It’s a vehicle and a canvas to put different flavors; it’s affordable. You can get traditional or you can give it a modern twist.

What is the difference between a football party versus a fútbol party?

AS: The expectations for a football party {when it comes to food} are a lot higher. People want to see something really special.

Seahawks or Patriots?

AS: I think the Seahawks are going to win. But I am New Orleans Saints fan so I don’t have any skin in the game as they say.

Touchdown Tacos with Mezcal-Lime Coleslaw

Ingredients

For the Tacos:

8 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded

3 pounds boneless beef short ribs

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoons cacao powder (or no-sugar-added cocoa powder)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, more if needed

1 cup yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1 cup celery, coarsely chopped

1 cup carrots, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1-cup tomato paste

1 cup red wine, preferably Madeira

4 cups beef stock

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

11/2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano

10 tablespoons (1, 5-oz bottle) Tabasco Original Red Sauce

Corn tortillas (soft or hard)

Chopped onions, for garnish

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

Mezcal-Lime Coleslaw:

1/4 cup mezcal (or orange liqueur)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup orange juice

1-pound (16-ounce package) store bought coleslaw mix

1/4-cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation

For the Tacos:

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Lightly toast the chiles in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 30 seconds on each side, just until they become fragrant, but not blackened. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Season beef with salt and cacao powder. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven, or other heavy pot, with a lid over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add meat and sear for approximately 3 minutes on each side, working in batches to avoid crowding if necessary, until the pieces have formed a uniformly brown crust. Add more oil to the pot, as needed, to prevent burning. As the pieces are ready, set aside on a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. Using the same pot, add the onion, celery and carrots and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.

Pour in the wine and stock to deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the toasted chiles and turn the heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes, until the chiles have softened and are pliable.

Add the cumin, pepper, oregano, and Tabasco Sauce. Return the meat to the pot and cover. Transfer to the oven and cook for approximately 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.

For the Coleslaw:

Heat the Mezcal in a sauté pan on medium heat until it flames (be careful because the flame can get pretty high!) and the alcohol burns off. Once the flame dies down, add the sugar and heat until dissolved. Add the lime and orange juices; bring to a boil and reduce by half. Remove from heat and let it cool.

In a large bowl, combine juice mixture with apple cider vinegar and cilantro, then toss in coleslaw mix and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

NOTE: If you are using orange liqueur, combine all liquid ingredients and sugar and reduce by half, then follow the remaining steps.

To Assemble:

Remove meat from sauce with tongs. Using the tongs or forks, shred the meat. Strain the sauce, and once the meat has been shredded, incorporate some of the sauce back into the meat. Taste and add salt, if necessary.

Build tacos, adding the meat first and then coleslaw. Finish with chopped onions and cilantro. Serve with lime wedge.

Makes approximately 20 tacos.

Super Grilled Shrimp With Habanero Butter

Image: Shrimp Skewer recipe with salsa glaze with chipotle sauce
Chef Aaron Sanchez's shrimp recipe Courtesy Aaron Sanchez

Ingredients

For the Shrimp:

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

12 garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup Tabasco Chipotle Sauce, or more to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Grated zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon salt

16 extra-large shrimp, tail on

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Habanero Butter:

½ cup butter, softened

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon shallots, minced

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Tabasco Habanero Sauce, or more to taste

Preparation

For the Shrimp:

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Pour the oil into a heavy, ovenproof medium saucepan and add the garlic. Cover the pot with foil, transfer to the oven, and cook until the garlic turns a nutty brown and is very soft (think cream cheese), about 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and let the garlic and oil cool to room temperature.

Transfer the garlic and the now garlic-infused oil into a food processor or blender. Add the Tabasco Chipotle Sauce, cilantro, lime zest, and salt and puree until the mixture is very smooth.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium heat.

Clean the shrimp and pat dry using a paper towel. Thread the shrimp onto the skewers, 3 to 4 shrimp per skewer. (TIP: soak skewers in water prior to using to prevent them from burning.)

Brush a generous amount of the sauce onto each side of the shrimp, then lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook on the grill for approximately 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

For the Habanero Butter:

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl and mix until well incorporated.

For additional spice, lightly brush each side of the shrimp with the Habanero Butter while grilling, or serve with shrimp for dipping.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

--Created by Chef Aarón Sánchez of Paloma and Johnny Sánchez