Counting Down To Cinco De Mayo

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - May 03, 2006
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Compadres Bar and Grill sure knows how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and the festivities excel at the popular Mexican restaurant in Ward Centre. Chef Raul Puga, a native of Jalisco, is pulling double-duty this week. Not only is he cooking up a storm every day through May 5, but he’s also readying his crew to cater the free “Live from the Lawn” celebration at the Hawaii State Art Museum on Friday, where Tim Bostock is presenting a Latin-inspired concert complemented by Compadres food.

Back at the Ward Centre location, there will be daily specials May 1-5, lots of drink promotions - like “progressive” margaritas where the price starts at a very low level and increases by $1 each hour during pau hana time - and “Rick’s Tequila Fountain of Pain” for shots on Cinco de Mayo.

Chef Raul took time from his busy schedule to share one of the “Countdown to Cinco de Mayo” specials with MidWeek readers.

Cinco de Mayo marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Although the Mexican army was eventually defeated, this battle came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism, as well as freedom and liberty.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated throughout the country, but most especially in the state of Puebla and in Mexico City.

Tequila is an alcoholic drink made in the highlands of central Mexico from the fermented and distilled sap of the agave plant, a succulent that has been cultivated on this continent for at least 9,000 years. The name agave comes from the Greek word for “noble.” There are more than 130 species of agave in Mexico - the blue agave, however, is the only one allowed for use in the making of tequila.

Tequila is carefully distilled and aged, although each company has its own production techniques.

Like single-malt scotches, tequilas vary according to the company making them, the process and the growing environment. The temperature, soil, types of equipment, age of the plants and the means by which the plants are baked and aged all affect the flavor and body.


For Sauce:

* 3 cups white wine
* 1/2 cup tequila Reduce in sauce pan to half, then add
* 1 quart heavy cream
* 1 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
* pinch white pepper Reduce to creamy texture.

For Chicken:

* 2 pounds chicken breast strips, skin off
* 1 cup white onion, julienne
* 1 ounce fresh garlic, diced Saute ingredients together.

For Fettucini:

* 2 pounds fettucini Pre-cook in boiling water to al dente. Flash cool in icewater; drain and hold.

Cooking Instructions:

Add 2 ounces white wine, deglaze in sauté pan. Combine sauce and chicken together until simmered; then add fettucini and toss over low heat.

For Garnish:

* 1/2 ounce Cotija Cheese, sprinkled over pasta
* 1/4 cup Roma tomatoes, diced

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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