Cary, NC — Whether you celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a history lesson on the Battle of Puebla or by drinking your favorite margarita, I’m not here to judge.
Truthfully, I’m not a history buff or a tequila drinker, but I am pretty fascinated with how the United States tends to twist and warp other country’s holidays into a party atmosphere and marketing ploy to create things like green beer in March for St. Patrick’s Day and bottomless tacos every 5th of May.
No — It’s Not Mexico’s Independence Day
For those genuinely curious, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in parts of Mexico to honor the country’s military victory on May 5, 1862 over the French who were led by Napoleon III in the Battle of Puebla.
Contrary to the thoughts of many, this is not Mexico’s Independence Day. The battle was fought during the Franco-Mexican War, a full 52 years after Mexico had gained its independence from Spain.
Switch It Up With These Authentic Bites
American Cinco de Mayo typically skips over many of the foods that are traditional and culturally significant to Mexico.
So, for those looking to think outside the box of margs and tacos, here are a few authentic but not-too-challenging recipes for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations tomorrow.
1. Chalupas Poblanas
Chalupas, an iconic Poblano street food, share a similar resemblance to tostadas and are the perfect addition to Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Essentially, chalupas are fried thick tortillas topped with salsa, shredded meat, chopped onion and sometimes queso fresco.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, it is believed that the name chalupa dates back to Colonial times when female Spanish settlers would spend their days washing clothes in the Almoloya River. They would carry all the clothing to and from the river in large baskets crafted from wood, called chalupas.
When returning home, the women would quickly fry up corn tortillas in lard, top them with salsa, shredded beef or pork, and chopped onion for their family dinners. To make your own Puebla-inspired Chalupas, follow the recipe below.
- 1/2 cup Manteca (pork lard) or corn oil
- 24 3-inch diameter tortillas
- 3/4 cup salsa verde, homemade or canned
- 3/4 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
- 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)
2. Easy Puebla-Style Chicken Mole
Another Mexican classic is Mole, pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable like the second half of guacamole.
Mole is a sauce made from ground up ingredients and comes in all colors and consistencies, but the thick dark mole poblano might be the most consumed dish in Puebla for Cinco de Mayo.
This recipe feeds 6 and is a slightly different take on the classic can be whipped up quickly and goes great with black beans and yellow rice or even as a filling for enchiladas.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup thinly sliced onion
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 stemmed dried seeded ancho chiles, torn into 2-inch pieces (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
- 1 ⅓ cups coarsely chopped tomato (about 1 medium)
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
- 3 (1/2 x 2-inch) orange rind strips
- ¾ pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- ¾ pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- ½ ounce unsweetened chocolate
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add onion; cook 5 minutes or until almost tender.
- Combine cumin, coriander, and cinnamon in a small bowl; sprinkle over onion in pan. Cook 1 minute.
- Add chiles and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes or until chiles soften.
- Add broth and next 4 ingredients (through rind) to pan; bring to a boil.
- Add chicken to pan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan; shred with 2 forks. Set aside.
- Add chocolate to chile mixture; let stand until chocolate melts.
- Using an immersion blender in pan, puree the chocolate mixture until smooth.
- Cook over medium heat 20 minutes or until reduced to 3 1/2 cups. Add shredded chicken to sauce; stir in salt and pepper.
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