Host Well: A Cinco de Mayo Party

A celebration of Mexican culture, Cinco de Mayo is one of our favorite holidays, and a true sign that spring has finally sprung. While we’re gearing up for the 5th, we’ve put together a no-fail five-step guide to throwing the perfect fiesta, featuring ideas from some of our favorite bloggers around. (No pre-made margarita mix here, folks!)

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1. The Pretty Piñata:

You’re going to burst through it in ten seconds flat, but a gorgeous paper-machéd piñata is an exciting upgrade on the classic party-store variety. Refinery29’s homemade ombre version is a masterpiece just begging to be filled with multicolored sweets.

2. The Discerning Drink Menu:

Everyone claims to know the perfect margarita recipe, but this one from Flourishing Foodie may actually be the only one you’ll need.  And, for friends who will be opting out of alcoholic libations, Smitten Kitchen’s Melon Agua Fresca, made from cantaloupe and honeydew juice, is also a refreshingly sweet treat.

3. The Pared-Down Party Snacks:

These couldn’t-be-easier guacamole and salsa recipes from A Beautiful Mess take a split second to make, leaving more time for, you know, partying.

4. The D.I.Y. Décor:

Buying and hanging banners can be a pain, but all you’ll need for this oh-so-easy play off traditional fiesta bunting from Oh Happy Day is colored tissue paper, twine, scissors and tape.

5. The Gussied-Up Goblets:

We’re all for these swirly tri-colored goblets, made from recycled glass—can’t you see a lime sitting pretty atop the rim?

Madewell Makes: Winter Braised Short Ribs

By Marcy Roberts

Here’s a perfect recipe for a winter dinner party with a few friends. Six happy people recently enjoyed it over a potato and celery root purée with a crusty baguette to dip into the delicious sauce and a green salad to start.

imagePhotos by Greg Vore   

INGREDIENTS

5-6 lbs. bone-in short ribs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

10-12 carrots, 2 peeled and chopped, 10 cut into 3” pieces 

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1/4 cup tomato paste

2–3 cups hearty red wine

1 28 oz. can tomato puree

2 cups water

1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup pitted green olives, quartered

Handful fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

1. Season each short rib generously with salt and pepper. Let them sit at room temperature for an hour or two if you can; they’ll taste better.
Coat a large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven with a few glugs of olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat on stovetop. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

3. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pot. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pot with a little fresh oil and add the chopped onions, celery and carrots, reserving 3” carrot pieces. Season generously with salt and cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and brown for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook another 10 minutes to reduce the liquid and concentrate the flavors.

4. Return the short ribs to the pot and add 2 cups water or enough to just about cover the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven for about 3 hours (yes really—you cannot overcook this!). Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water if needed. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the ribs over and add the remaining carrots. After 3 hours, the meat should be fall-off-the-bones tender. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees F. Remove the lid, add the olives and parsley and cook for another 20 minutes to get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce.  Spoon over the carb of your choice, sprinkle with more chopped fresh herbs (parsley and chives) and serve! 

Madewell Makes: Dim Sum Dumplings

by Marcy Roberts

I love eating Chinese-style dumplings this time of year, but at most traditional restaurants you can really only get two kinds: veggie or meat. So I thought, why not combine them? Here’s my favorite (healthier) way to do it:
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Serve these as an appetizer or make them a meal by adding steamed spinach and carrots to your plate—and don’t forget the chopsticks.

TURKEY AND PORK DUMPLINGS WITH BOK CHOY
Makes 24–30 dumplings

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped bok choy stalks
2 cups chopped bok choy leaves
1 lb. ground turkey and/or pork
1/2 cup minced scallions
2-3 Tbsp. peeled and grated ginger
Tbsp. minced garlic
Tbsp. white rice wine or mirin
1 egg, lightly beaten
Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
Tbsp. sesame oil
Tbsp. soy sauce
Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. sugar
Tbsp. sriracha (optional)
1 package of wonton wrappers (you can find these in the frozen aisle in most grocery stores or Asian specialty markets)

SOY DIPPING SAUCE
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 scallion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil

Preparation:
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the bok choy stalks and allow the water to return to a boil. Add the bok choy leaves and blanch for 1 minute or until the leaves turn bright green. Immediately remove bok choy and place into a bowl of ice water. Once the leaves/stems have cooled, squeeze out all excess water.

Heat the oil in a small saute pan over medium heat and add the scallions, ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from heat.

In a large bowl, place the bok choy, scallion mixture and all of the remaining filling ingredients. Mix together until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. The longer it rests, the easier it will be to work with.

Arrange 4 wrappers on a work surface (keep remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap or a paper towel) and mound a tablespoon of filling in center of each. Lightly moisten edge of wrappers with a finger dipped in water. Working with one at a time, gather opposite corners of the wrapper around filling, pressing together to seal, then fold up remaining 2 corners into the point and seal all edges. You’ll make a square dumpling that looks a bit like an envelope. Continue with the remaining wrappers and filling and you’ll end up making between 24 and 30 dumplings.

Generously oil bottom of colander-steamer insert and bring a few inches of water to a boil in pot so that bottom of insert sits above water. Arrange dumplings, about 1/2 inch apart, in insert and steam over moderate heat, covered, until dough is translucent and filling is just cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.  Enjoy with soy dipping sauce.