17 of Rick Martinez's All-Time Best Recipes (Shrimp Tacos, Chicken Sandwiches & Cookies Galore)

On his birthday, we're celebrating Food52's Resident Sugar Man with a fiery feast of his best dishes.

June 14, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Food52's Resident Sugar Man Rick Martinez builds a fire time and time again with his twice-monthly recipe and video column, Sweet Heat. While Rick always celebrates the vivid colors and big-time flavor found in Mexican cuisine, today, we're celebrating him because it's his birthday. But instead of birthday cake, we've already got ice cream churning away for Rick's Chocolate-Dipped Concha Ice Cream Sandwiches. His homemade rich vanilla bean ice cream is balanced by a spicy berry sauce and warm chile fudge sauce, which slowly melts the ice cream. "It's like eating a really, really delicious messy burger," says Rick. We can't think of a better birthday treat than that.

And for a speedy weeknight dinner to top it all off? Try your hand at his Shrimp Tacos Dorados, al Pastor-Style, which comes together in just 30 minutes. Or, there's this quick Huevos Rancheros With Chorizo & Porky Refried Beans. Both are packed with gentle heat that will light up any night of the week. Ahead, we're sharing 17 recipes that Rick developed exclusively for Food52. For more delicious content, check out his YouTube playlist, where he demos how to make each of these recipes (and gives us a peek into his beautiful Mazatlán home!).

1. Chocolate-Dipped Concha Ice Cream Sandwiches

Rick Martinez is giving a whole new meaning to an ice cream sandwich. Tucked between conchas, which are Mexican sweet breads, is a generous scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream and a chile berry sauce. But what's an ice cream treat without just a little bit of chocolate? To remedy this query, Rick also dips the conchas in a chile fudge sauce before assembling.

2. Sweet & Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich With Pickles

If we had to eat one cut of chicken for the rest of eternity, it would probably be chicken thighs. They're more flavorful and forgiving than other cuts, and they're so versatile. Here, Rick marinated the thighs in a sauce made from sambal oelek, fish sauce, Sriracha, garlic, white miso, and ginger for an ultra-flavorful grilled sandwich.

3. Shrimp Tacos Dorados, al Pastor-Style

"There's something about shrimp that is just so amazing, especially when you put it out on the grill," said Rick. Grilled shrimp, a spicy salsa, and sweet pineapple bring a sweet heat combination to these tacos for dinner tonight.

4. Huevos Rancheros With Chorizo & Porky Refried Beans

Learn how to make one of Rick's favorite breakfast dishes, which calls for a few extra-special ingredients like homemade black beans (though feel free to use store-bought from a can), fresh chorizo, bacon fat, and a spicy charred salsa.

5. Thai-Inspired Fried Fish With Green Papaya Salad

After waiting anxiously for green papayas to ripen on a tree outside of his rental property in Mazatlán, Mexico, Rick Martinez developed this recipe for frying a whole fish and dressing it up with a perky papaya and shrimp salad. It was well worth the wait.

6. Vegan Chile Colorado

This meatless stew is plenty hearty, thanks to thick planks of cauliflower, bite-sized pieces of sweet potatoes, and chopped cremini mushrooms, which float in a stock that features four different kinds of chiles.

7. Capirotada de Leche

Craving something sweet? Always! Rick Martinez developed a dessert that is a happy-medium between two classic Mexican treats—capirotada, which is similar to a bread pudding, and a tres leches cake. This version is made with lots of warm spices, raisins, mixed nuts, dried fruit (Rick prefers peaches), and crumbled queso fresco.

8. Pork Ribs in Chile Verde

"In my version, I use ribs because I love the meaty flavor of pork ribs and the bones make the most incredible broth," said Rick of his take on his family's staple recipe. A combination of poblano and jalapeño peppers, plus tomatillos, bring a vivid green hue to this uber-comforting dish.

9. Sweet & Spicy Sausage, Egg & Cheese

This is no ordinary bodega sausage, egg, and cheese. Rick Martinez is the mastermind behind this satisfying breakfast sandwich made with homemade sweet pork sausage and a spicy tomato-based salsa. Don't worry—Rick didn't skimp on the melty cheese or buttery toasted buns for this recipe either.

10. Coconut Shrimp With Pineapple-Habanero Salsa (Camarones al Coco)

A genius duo of sweetened coconut flakes and coconut oil deliver sweetness to Rick Martinez's version of this classic shrimp dish, but the ingredients also ensure that the shrimp develop a super crispy, golden-brown crust. Serve alongside a simple salsa for even more sweet heat.

11. Buñuelos With Spicy Hot Chocolate

"When I was little, every New Year's Eve, we would go to my grandmother's house. She would open the door, grab my cheeks, and give me a big hug and kiss. The next thing to greet me was always the amazing scents of cinnamon, sugar, and fried dough—signifying sweet, crispy buñuelos," said Rick. Inspired by his grandmother—and his favorite New Year's Eve treat—Rick developed his own recipe for this festive treat featuring a decadent chocolate sauce that has plenty of sweet heat.

12. Lacy Honey-Pistachio Florentines (aka Nutty Nudes)

Take one bite of these crispy, caramelized cookies and you'll wonder why you haven't been baking (and eating!) them all along. This recipe calls for pistachios, cinnamon, and chocolate, but you can swap in any type of nut that you love.

13. Mole Sencillo (Simple Mole)

Rick Martinez worked hard to develop a recipe for an easier-than-ever, 10-ingredient mole sauce that doesn't skimp on flavor. You'll get plenty of heat from chile anchoes, sweetness from brown sugar and animal crackers (yes, really!), raisins, and of course classic bittersweet chocolate.

14. Crispy Chicken Salad à la Wondee Siam

Upgrade a store-bought rotisserie chicken by pairing it with pineapple, onions, Thai chiles, lime juice, and fish sauce for a quick and easy salad inspired by east Asian flavors.

15. Pan de Elote Dressing

If you've grown tired of eating a sausage and apple or fennel stuffing at Thanksgiving, try Rick Martinez's recipe for a cornbread and chorizo dressing that’s anything but ordinary.

16. Tamales Azules de Elote

Learn how to make these traditional blue corn tamales for any special occasion. "I used blue corn masa to add both a sharp contrast to the white corn but also, I love the deep, almost nutty flavor of the blue corn," said Rick.

17. Roasted & Raw Vegetables With Spicy Tahini Cream

Sweet potatoes and beets are the sweet key to Rick's signature sweet-heat recipe. A spicy green tahini sauce introduces plenty of heat and an assortment of nuts makes this dish plenty filling and healthy when you’re craving something on the lighter side.

Wish Rick Martinez a 'Happy Birthday' in the comments below!

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Former Food52 Staff Editor

1 Comment

Jeanne July 9, 2021
A most happy birthday to you, Rick! May you enjoy many, many more years filled with fine food and friends.