Whether you call them appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, or el aperitivo, starters are essential to any diner party. In many affairs they are the main event themselves. The keys to a successful appetizer menu are convenience, presentation, and flavor, of course. One of the most popular regional twists on a more traditional diner party appetizer offering is Mexican. We’re not talking about the Tex-Mex variety you find frozen and pre-packaged at your local big box retail grocer. Instead, we are pointing you in the right direction, towards authentic Mexican bites that serve as a perfect introduction to your entree or potluck gathering.
3 Popular and Easy to Make Mexican Appetizers
1. Mexican Ceviche
Ceviche is rooted in South America but was adopted by Mexico a long time ago. This very popular seafood dish includes fresh raw fish that has been cured in citrus juice and is seasoned with ají, a concoction commonly made from tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and ají pepper (or chili pepper). As an appetizer it works best when you add shrimp. For the fish, red snapper, mahi mahi, and sea bass work great, but when it comes to cost and convenience (without sacrificing comparable taste) tilapia is an excellent choice. Once you have selected your fish and shrimp, proceed with the following (4-6 servings):
– Cut 1lb of fish into tiny bite size cubes (leave the shrimp as is).
– Refrigerate and marinate the fish/shrimp in fresh squeezed lime juice (6 or 7 limes will do) overnight, stirring well when convenient. If the lime juice has not completely soaked in by the late AM you can pour out the excess.
– Add 1 cup of fresh diced tomato, 2 diced ají peppers (or substitute with jalapeños), 1 diced cucumber, 1 finely diced onion, 4 tablespoons of chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and a few subtle drops of your favorite Mexican hot sauce.
– Present your ceviche on fresh crisp lettuce leaves to line your bowl and serve with tostadas.
2. Mexican Stuffed Poblano Peppers
There are many versions of Mexican stuffed poblano peppers but the authentic kind we’re referring to here are affectionately known as Chiles Poblanos Rellenos a La Mexicana. To be honest, when it comes to the convenience scale these bite-sized treats fall on the more taxing end of the spectrum BUT we’d be remiss to exclude them. They are amazing. Let’s get right to it (6 servings):
– Separate 6 eggs. Beat the egg whites into a foamy consistency, and the yolks until they are thick and yellow, then refrigerate each in a separate bowl.
– Fry 1lb of seasoned ground beef (or chorizo) with 1/2 cup of chopped onion and 3 diced garlic cloves.
– At the same time (while cooking your meat) grill 6 poblano peppers over an open flame until the skin evidences a moderate char on both “sides”.
– Remove the roasted peppers from the flame and let cool.
– Slit one side of the peppers and proceed to scoop out the membranes and seeds. You can keep the stem for presentation (and as a holder).
– Heat (medium to high) enough oil to fill 3/4 of a standard cooking pan.
– Stuff your poblano peppers with your meat, then add two thin strips of cheese (Monterey Jack or your favorite Mexican cheese) to bookend the beef/chorizo within each pepper.
– Close the peppers as much as you can.
– Dip the stuffed peppers into the yolk, maintaining the coating of each when lifting them carefully out one at a time.
– Dip the yolk covered stuffed peppers into the egg white mixture, similarly coating them in the process.
– Gently place each stuffed pepper into the hot oil, frying each side until its crisp and brown (about 3 minutes on each side).
– Gently remove each stuffed pepper and place on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.
– Top (optional) with tomato sauce and crumbled queso fresco, and serve.
3. Mexican Guacamole w/Jicama Chips
Guacamole may feel a little predictable as an appetizer on this list but we can guarantee that your guests will expect it when they are coming over for a Mexican cuisine themed feast. You won’t want to disappoint! What will truly impress them, is that you’ve made your guacamole from scratch. What will impress them even further, is that you’ve substituted traditional corn chips with jicama, a much healthier alternative. Without further ado, proceed with the following (serves approximately 6):
– Peel and slice 3 jicama into thin slices. Spread the slices out over parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Season with your favorite spices and coat them with a olive oil based cooking spray. Place them into an oven at 400° F for approximately 25-30 minutes (or until crisp).
– Slice 5 large Hass avocadoes in half. Remove the seed and scoop out the innards into a bowl.
– Squeeze the juice from one large lime into the bowl, mixing it in to achieve consistency. This will help keep the avocado from turning brown in the bowl.
– Add one medium diced onion, one large diced tomato, and 3/4 cup of fine-chopped fresh cilantro. If you prefer guacamole with a kick you may add one large diced jalapeno pepper.
– Squeeze the juice from an additional lime in with the ingredients and stir thoroughly.
– Remove the jicama chips from the oven (assuming 25-30 minutes have passed) and serve with your freshly made guacamole.