Celebrating An Authentic Mexican Cinco de Mayo

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We are just a few days away from Cinco de Mayo, the May 5th annual celebration of the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla. And while many Americanos have celebrated by noshing on tacos and slurping margaritas, there is a more authentic way to celebrate the Mexican victory over Napolean during the Franco-American War.

Borrowing from Puebla, the city in Mexico where the biggest celebrations occur annually, the following recipes are gentle nudges to try authentic Mexican cuisine.

And why not this year? You likely have more time to mess around in the kitchen. Put on some traditional Mexicano music and dance your way through a few of these fun recipes!

No celebration is complete without chalupas, fried thick tortillas topped with salsa, shredded meat, chopped onion and sometimes queso fresco (not your average velveta). The meat can be beef, pork, or chicken, and should be tenderly slow cooked. This is also wonderful for leftover meat.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup manteca (pork lard) or corn oil
  • 24 3″-diameter tortillas
  • 3/4-1 cup salsa verde, homemade or canned
  • 3/4-1 cup salsa roja, homemade or canned
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded beef, pork or chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups queso fresco or mild feta cheese
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and finely chopped

Directions:

In a large, deep frying pan, heat the oil or lard until a few drops of water sprinkled into the pan bounce and sizzle.

Place tortillas, as many as will fit, into the pan and soft-fry them, just 3-4 seconds on each side. They should remain pliable and not crispy. Drain them well on paper towels as they are removed from the pan.

Spoon salsa verde, about 1 tablespoon per chalupa, over half of them, and salsa roja over the other half. Top each with a bit of shredded meat, crumbled cheese and onion.

Serve immediately. Makes 24 (6 appetizer or snack servings.)

Ready now for your main course?

Try Chiles in Nogada, a 200 year old recipe thought to be made by nuns to celebrate the colors of the Mexican flag.

This recipe calls for pork, and slow roasted in the crock pot makes a lot of sense. You want the pork tender and juicy.

Also important to note is you have choice about whether to batter and fry the peppers, or serve fresh. That’s your choice, but many traditionalists simply won’t touch the dish without the deep frying. And of course an added tablespoon of heavy sour cream.

Ingredients:

For the Picadillo:
2 lbs. boneless pork butt
1 tablespoon lard
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon all-spice
2 small yellow, sweet onions chopped
3 tomatoes (fresh is best)
1 green apple
1 ripe yellow plantain
2 firm yellow peaches
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup Jerez Sherry Fino
zest of one lemon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

For the Nogada Sauce:
1 cup milk
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup queso fresco
2 tablespoons Jerez Sherry Fino

For the Capeado (optional):
10 eggs, separated
1/4 cup flour

For Garnish:
1 pomegranate, seeded
3 sprigs flat leaf parsley

Chiles and Picadillo: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place 1 tablespoon lard in a oven-proof skillet, and heat on medium-high until rippling. Add the cinnamon, cloves and all-spice, toasting for 1 minute. Add the pork roast and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Add 2 cups water and one white onion chopped and simmer for 5 minutes. Put into the preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let rest for 30 minutes. Cut pork into a quarter-inch dice. Set aside.

Meanwhile, chop all the apple, peaches and plantain into a quarter-inch dice. Soak the golden raisins in the sherry. Set aside.

Roast the poblano chiles on an open flame or under the broiler until blistered and blackened — 3 minutes per side if over a flame, 5 minutes per side if under a broiler. Tightly wrap the chiles in a clean dry towel and let them “sweat” for 15 minutes. When chiles are cool enough to handle, gently remove blistered skin. Cut a slit in the side of the chile and carefully remove seeds.

Roast the tomatoes on a cast-iron comal or under the broiler until blishered and blackened and so flesh yields to touch. Peel off the skin, core and puree in a blender. Set aside.

In a large skillet, on medium-high heat melt butter. Add the chopped pork. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the remaining onion. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3 more minutes. Add the chopped apple, peaches, plantains, lemon zest and raisins and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Finally add the tomato puree, salt to taste and simmer on low for 15 minutes, stirring occassionaly. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Still hungry? Fry some run soaked bananas, or grill rum soaked pineapple, and serve over ice cream. (Nipper likes his without the rum, and added toasted coconut!).

Any way you celebrate it, enjoy your Cinco de Mayo this week. Dance to some salsa music, or try your hand at some mariachi guitar playing!

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