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Cinco de Mayo is probably one of the most-recognized celebrations in the United States. It’s comparable to the Chinese celebration of Chinese New Year and St. Patrick’s Day for us Irish folks.
Simply put, Cinco de Mayo in Spanish means the Fifth of May, which is the date of the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The celebration is not just limited to Mexicans, as people worldwide celebrate this event in different ways. There is a skydiving event in Vancouver, Canada; a beer drinking fest in Malta; and even a guitar competition in the Cayman Islands. Go figure.
At the heart of all the celebrations, though, are the daylong traditional Mexican dishes that are served and enjoyed by everyone. Not everyone can handle some of the spicier foodstuffs and so many of these traditional dishes have been updated to appeal to a wider audience. Enchiladas, fajitas, margaritas, tacos, tamales, nachos, empanadas and more are enjoyed on this day and throughout the week by millions of people.
I presented my wife, her sister and my niece with a breakfast nacho on May 4, just to get everyone in a festive mood one day early. On Cinco de Mayo we had beef empanadas for a dinner entrée along with a few Mexican appetizers and, of course, adult cocktails.
If you haven’t already, try some of these Mexican favorites and mine, too. I’ve included a breakfast dish, an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. These foods can be enjoyed all through the year.
8 oz. chorizo sausage (or a breakfast sausage, if preferred), cooked, drained and crumbled
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 tsp. Mexican seasoning (optional)
2 cups tortilla chips, coarsely crumbled
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups chunky salsa, drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sausage, eggs, green onions and seasoning. Spray a medium-sized baking dish with non-stick spray. Add sausage/egg mixture. Top with chips and then sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until eggs are set and cheese is melted; top with drained salsa. Makes 4 servings.
Pico de Gallo
An authentic Mexican salsa made with tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos, this dish is usually served as an appetizer along with tacos, nachos, black beans, refried beans or your favorite Mexican dish.
1 medium tomato, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh lime
In a medium bowl, combine tomato, onion, jalapeno pepper, cilantro and green onion. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir until evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Before serving, add a fresh squeeze of lime. Makes 4 servings.
Mexican Chicken Enchiladas
Serve them with sour cream and a side of Spanish rice.
2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into chunks
1 can cream of chicken soup
1-1/4 cups sour cream
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chilies, drained
1 pkg. mild taco seasoning mix
1 bunch green onions, chopped, divided
1 tsp. limejuice
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
5 (12-inch) flour tortillas
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 (10 oz.) can enchilada sauce
1 (6 oz.) can sliced black olives
Place the chicken in a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce o medium-low; simmer until chicken pieces are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Shred chicken by placing two forks back to back and pulling meat apart; set aside. Combine soup, sour cream and chili powder in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.
Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add shredded chicken, green chilies, taco seasoning, half the chopped green onion and one cup of water; simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the limejuice, onion powder and garlic powder; simmer an additional 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir one cup of the soup mixture into the skillet with the chicken mixture. Spread the remaining soup mixture on the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture. Sprinkle cheese over the chicken filling before folding the tortillas, reserving half of the shredded cheese for topping the enchiladas. Fold tortillas over the filling and place seam-side down in the prepared pan.
Pour enchilada sauce evenly over the enchiladas. Cover with the remaining cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the reserved chopped green onions and the sliced olives on top of the cheese. Bake until filling is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Makes 8 servings.
Apple Cinnamon Empanada
These are a great finish to a hearty Mexican meal, especially served with some vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
1 large can (21 oz.) apple pie filling
8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (36-count) pkg. frozen roll dough (defrost according to package directions)
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
Lightly grease two baking sheets. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla; mix until smooth. Place dough for one roll on a lightly floured surface and roll into a 4-inch circle. Spoon 1 tablespoon of cream cheese mixture and 1 tablespoon of apple pie filling onto lower half of circle. Brush edges with milk. Fold in half and crimp edges with a fork. Repeat with the remaining biscuits.
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush each empanada with butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes 36 empanadas.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.