The holiday of Cinco De Mayo, The 5th of May, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. According to www.history.com, France invaded Mexico under the pretext of unpaid debts accumulated during Mexico’s struggle for independence from Spain. But it was common knowledge at the time that France had empire expansion on the brain rather than collecting a few pesos. So the French loaded up their ships, set sail due south and invaded Mexico via the gulf coast en route to Mexico City. But a funny thing happened – they encountered a virtual buzz saw of resistance near Puebla.
As the story goes, a ragtag Mexican militia beat down an armed to-the-teeth French army nearly double their size. The victory stoked Mexico’s badly needed sense of national unity back then, and the citizens there still mark the occasion with a military parade, followed by a fiesta filled with music, dancing, and, most importantly, food. Stateside, it matters little that most Americans mistake Cinco De Mayo as Mexico’s Independence Day. Why nitpick over historical minutiae when we should focus on celebrating our southern neighbors’ mettle over tasty margaritas and an array of awesome traditional food?
A Mexican fiesta without tequila is like a beach without sand. You’ve got to have a lot of it, and it should be tasty and smooth – which means get the good stuff. Silver, Reposado (aged a minimum of 2 months, but less than a year) or Anejo matters less than making sure you’ve got 100% agave tequila. The best margaritas are made simply and without pre-made sweet and-sour mix. The Classic Margarita can’t be bettered, but if you prefer your margaritas a tad sweeter, go for the Agave Nectar version. It comes really close.
Chips, salsa and guacamole will always provide the perfect counterpart to good margaritas. If you’re up for making your own chips, they taste far better than store-bought. If not, don’t sweat it because this Pico De Gallo makes any chips taste fresh. DO NOT buy pre-packaged or powdered guacamole starter. It’s too easy to make and it tastes too good to settle for anything other than Fresh Guacamole.
Few Mexican entrees satisfy the soul and warm the heart like a plate of hot, cheesy chicken enchiladas. If you lean toward spicy red sauces, these Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas will blow your mind. If fresh, tomatillo sauce gets you shaking a tail-feather, these Roasted Tomatillo Enchiladas are just as good. And if you need a side dish, put your leftover Pico de Gallo into this hearty Frijoles de la Olla (Stewed Beans with Pico de Gallo).
For dessert it’s got to be Champurrado (Mexican hot chocolate) and flan, and you’d be hard pressed to cap your Mexican fiesta with a better one than this Almond Flan. So this Cinco De Mayo, set out a spread of food and drinks, and raise your glasses to those Mexican warriors who were instrumental in keeping the French where they belong – in Europe. Viva Mexico!