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Cinco de Mayo History, Plus Our Favorite Authentic Chef Recipes

Cinco de Mayo is one of the most misunderstood holidays. Many people celebrate this day on May 5, but have no idea what it’s all about or think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. The origins of Cinco de Mayo are actually pretty straightforward.

How It Started
Cinco de Mayo literally means “the fifth of May”. It started as a celebration of the Battle of Puebla. The French sent a rather large army to invade Mexico in 1861 so that they could collect on some old war debts. As this army went through Mexico, the Mexican people had difficulties trying to defend themselves against the well-equipped French army. However, once they army got to Puebla, they found themselves being outmatched and the Mexicans in Puebla were actually able to successfully fight off the French army. After the French army left Puebla they were able to continue on and take over Mexico City. Because of the fact that the residents of Puebla were able to defeat the French on May 5, 1862 army even though they were the underdogs, the Mexicans decided that this win needed to be celebrated and Cinco de Mayo was born.

How It’s Celebrated Today
One of the interesting things about this holiday is that it’s actually more popular in the U.S. than it is in Mexico. One theory as to why this has happened is that many Mexicans that celebrated the holiday immigrated over to America and brought this tradition with them that has been passed down to their families. Whether in Mexico or the U.S., Cinco de Mayo celebrations often times include parades and a lot of festivities. Many households make Mexican crafts to display around their house and traditional Mexican dishes.

Traditional Mexican Dishes
Authentic Mexican dishes include hand made tamales, mole, chiles rellenos, mexican style street corn, camote (recipe below,) salsa roja, enchiladas and flautas. For dessert you might find churros, Tres Leches Cake, flan or arroz con leche.

Here are some of our favorite recipes including a few popular Mexican Restaurants as well as well known Authentic Mexican Chefs Aaron Sanchez, Zarela Martinez and Ana Garcia.

Drinks:

Sangrita from Bobby Flay
Classic Shaken Margarita – Plus 25 other Top Margarita recipes from Cooking Channel TV

Appetizers:

Guacamole from Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant
Guacamole from La Morada Restaurant
Guacamole with Pistachios from Chef Alex Stupak of Empellon Cocina and Empellon Taqueria in NYC
Queso Fundido with Chorizo from Readers Digest
Cooking with Salsa – Three Recipes from Chef Zarela Martinez
Homemade Tortilla Chips from Chef Traci Des Jardins for Williams Sonoma

Main Dishes:

Tlayudas (Mexican Pizza) con Chorizo  from Better Home and Gardens
Grilled Pork Tacos, Pastor Style from Chef Rick Bayless – Delicious.  Add some cilantro and lime before serving for added flavor.
Adobo Grilled Skirt Steak for Tacos from Chef Roberto Sanchez, who recipes have been featured by Gourmet Magazine and Martha Stewart Living.
Sweet Chiles Stuffed with Chroizo Picadillo & Queso Fresco, Chef Aaron Sanchez
Green Mole with Pork from Chef Zarela Martinez featured from Epicurious Magazine
Arroz a La Tumbada (rice and seafood dish) from Chef Ana Garcia
Pork Carnitas from Chef Richard Sandoval
Crisp Chicken Floutas from Chef David Suarez, Rosa Mexicano, NYC

Desserts:

Tres Leches Cake with Strawberries Chef Soledad Correa of Casa Silva featured in Food & Wine Magazine
Warm Churros and Hot Chocolate  Chef Andrew Zimmerman featured in Food & Wine Magazine
Vanilla Orange Flan from Chef Jose Garces (you may know him as an Iron Chef on the Food Network)

Other Favorite Mexican Recipes

Camote

Ingredients:

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

To Make:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1 inch cubes. Spray a pan with cooking spray, place the potatoes inside, cover it and let cook for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and take the cover off of it. Pour the butter, honey and cinnamon on top of the sweet potatoes. Stir the items together and place the mixture back in the oven, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.

Nachos

Ok so this is not authentic since you are using some pre-made ingredients, but if you are in a rush, this is an easy dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 thinly sliced Chile’s
  • 1 jar mild salsa
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 bag tortilla chips

To Make:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the milk and soup into a 13 in x 9 inch baking dish and stir the items together. Pour half of the salsa evenly over top of it. Place half of the chips on top of the salsa. Use a spatula to spread the refried beans over the chips. Pour the rest of the chips on top and spoon the other half of the salsa on top of the chips. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese and Chile’s on top. Bake for about 20 minutes.