5@5 - Chef Akhtar Nawab
April 1st, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

The warmer months are upon us. Well, at least they're supposed to be - but we cranky sleet-enduring New Yorkers digress.

That means it's time to fire up those grills - and we've got Akhtar Nawab, the executive chef of La Esquina restaurant in New York City, helping tend the flame.

Five Favorite Dishes for a Mexican-Inspired Outdoor Party: Akhtar Nawab

1. Grilled shellfish with Mexican chorizo, olives, peppers, and oregano
"I love all grilled fish, particularly shellfish. When the shells start to roast on the grill, they pick up a very unique flavor and take on an intense aroma. The stewed sweet pepper, chorizo, briny olives and earthy oregano together add a very special elegance for a really pleasant dish.

Tip: Make sure to keep the shellfish liquor in the shell when transferring from the grill to the pot with the chorizo. Let everything cook together until the flavors start to combine in an intense stew. Serve with fried tortillas for a great lunch."

2. Bone-in carne asada with a Mexican “dry rub”
"This is a dish we offer at La Esquina. It’s great to make at home, as it’s so simple and tasty to grill for parties or a family dinner outdoors. Really splurge and get a good quality dry-aged bone-in sirloin.

The dry rub also has a lot of uses outside of this dish, great for roasted chicken or hearty fishes as well. In our dry rub, we use Mexican oregano, black pepper, cumin, coriander seed, onion powder and garlic powder. Toast everything in a pan until aromatic, allow to cool and grind in a spice grinder. Be sure to store in a cool dry place.

Tip: When buying the sirloin, ask the butcher to cut the steaks at least one-inch thick so the meat can spend some time on the grill charring before it reaches medium rare. This will help to avoid overcooking."

3. Elotes callajeros (grilled corn) with lime mayonnaise, cotija cheese and chile piquin
"A fun and different way to reinvent corn on the grill. This is the perfect dish for a party - it’s simple to make and fun to eat.

Get the freshest corn you can, peel, and grill them until the kernels are slightly charred and start to pop. Use a thick wooden skewer to create a handle for eating. Brush with some lime mayonnaise, generously dust with cotija cheese and finish with a little fresh chile piquin.

Tip: For those looking for a little less spice, substitute chile powder for the chile piquin."

4. Grilled Hen of the woods mushrooms cooked with mojo de ajo, epazote, and Fresno chilies and cebollitas (green onions)
"Mushrooms are one of my favorite things, especially hen of the woods. Like the corn, this is also a tasty, simple side dish which will go well with everything.

Carefully break the mushrooms into large pieces, brush with the mojo de ajo and grill over medium heat. In a separate pan quickly sauté the sliced shallots and chilies. When the mushrooms are tender, add the peppers and onions and cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms are coated with the peppers and mojo de ajo.

Tip: The mojo, like the dry rub for the steak, is easy to make and has so many different uses, so take a little extra time and make a big batch! Great with shrimp and fish also.

To make, simply mince garlic in a food processor, add to a pot, cover with olive oil, fresh chilies (I like to use chile de arbol), and cook slowly. When the garlic starts to caramelize, add some lime juice and the minced herbs. Cool and use on anything and everything."

5. Grilled tomatillo and ajo (garlic) salsa
"This salsa also has multiple uses and can be a tasty and simple way to add flavor to any dish. Or, of course, a great snack to enjoy on its own!

Simply place the tomatillos, serrano chile, garlic, and onions on a hot spot of the grill and cook turning only when necessary. An easy way to make this salsa is to put everything in a blender and process for a few seconds. Season with salt.

Tip: Make certain to purchase small tomatillos so they won’t have to spend as long on the grill charring. This will help to contain their valuable juices."

Previously - Up your grilling game

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

See all our best grilling advice at Grilling 101

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Filed under: 5@5 • Corn • Grilling • Make • Think • Vegetables

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Soleada

    I love elote! even better – tacos al pastor con nopales – grilled cactus leaves – and El Milagro tortillas.. with Pacifico, tecate, or victoria beer. yum!

    May 30, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  2. sbp

    Pretty clear that when he's referring to a "bone-in dry-aged sirloin steak", he means a strip loin (also called shell steak or NY strip steak). Meat from the sirloin (rather than the loin) is not a common "restaurant steak;" it's of lesser quality and is not generally sold bone-in or dry aged.

    April 3, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • angrymexican

      for carne asada it is usually a chuck steack with bone in it , also known as 7-bone steak

      April 4, 2011 at 10:45 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Mmmm. Carne Asada

        April 4, 2011 at 10:52 am |
      • sbp

        Yes, but he's talking about a high-end re-imagining of carne asada. I don't think it's even possible to buy 7 bone steak dry-aged.

        April 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
      • sbp

        Plus, you wouldn't be cooking chuck steak medium rare.

        April 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  3. becca

    i really like grilled veggies, just not burned. you really have to watch the timing of the grilling so the veggies don't burn.

    April 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  4. slupdawg

    Yep, I have Hen-of-the-Woods jusr running out my arse. How about an ingredient that more than .0001% of amateur chefs can procure?

    April 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • angrymexican

      err, how bout chicken?

      April 4, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  5. No el Shmeat

    It doesn't matter what cuisine it is, so long as it doesn't use shmeat - Check out the most recent article on NoShmeat, by the way - brilliant!!!

    April 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • James76er

      That article is pretty funny! And so sadly true too... Prolly go over most ppl's heads :/

      April 2, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  6. HRPufnstuf

    "Akhtar Nawab" is telling us how to prepare Mexican food?

    April 2, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  7. David

    Oh! BTW... Corona sucks big time! That's the worst beer in Mexico.

    April 2, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • angrymexican

      agree, bohemia is the best

      April 4, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  8. David

    Come on! Every time I hear "Mexican food" it turns out to be crap... come down to Mexico and try real mexican food for God's sake! Just don't come down here with big trucks and american plates. Viva Mexico Cabrones!

    April 2, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • juanito


      April 3, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • alva

      i love elotes!!...especially with a bit of butter on top of the mayo and cheese...yum!!!

      April 4, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  9. Elote worshipper

    The one treat I miss most from a long stay in Oaxaca is the Elote. If you try this recipe, don't forget squeezing on lime juice at the very end. No need for measurements for this recipe....the more of everything the better! You can just boil the corn if you don't want to go through the hassle of grilling, but I must say grilling would be tasty! This recipe is a taste bud explosion...the sweet, spicy, and sour. Don't be afraid to try it! Also – you can buy Oaxacan cheese from most major grocery stores and just shred it. It is white and mozzarella like.

    April 2, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  10. Lucie

    I'd tap that.

    April 2, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Me too!!!

      April 5, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  11. Chaz Romano (not real name. take that CNN)


    April 1, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  12. Mke

    How about a real recipe with like measured amounts of ingredients??????????

    April 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • angrymexican

      a real cook dont need recipes, figure it out at your taste

      April 4, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  13. NicM

    I'm going to have to try some of these this summer. I've made that exact salsa before but used the broiler to char everything so if you're stuck in an apartment that's a good option.

    April 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  14. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    The only good kind of food.

    April 1, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • capt. slapaho

      Jdizzle, my brah, how are you?

      April 4, 2011 at 10:39 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Just fine, my mang.

        April 4, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  15. Popeye

    These are fine items for someone on a diet.... I lost my appetite reading them. Glass of water please.

    April 1, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Yabba

      If this were authentic Mexican, you'd be advised not to drink the water

      April 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
      • angrymexican

        these are authentic mexican

        April 4, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  16. Tazer@Truth

    Uhh huhh....

    Now I'm hungry!!!

    April 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • AleeD

      :) For what, exactly? (:

      April 4, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  17. Truth


    April 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Not Truth

      Do you wait around, salivating at the thought of a new article so you can write "Interesting!"?

      April 2, 2011 at 12:07 am |
      • just not a nice person

        do you wait for the first person to post so you can post something negative to make yourself (and no one else) laugh


        April 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
      • Truth@Not Truth

        Well, as a matter of fact, we used to have this daily contest...

        April 4, 2011 at 10:57 am |
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