Don’t we all just love Cinco de Mayo? Who wouldn’t when it’s an excuse to eat tacos? I have loved celebrating this holiday for decades. Of course, many Americans don’t even know why the 5th of May is a holiday, except for tacos and margaritas.
What is Cinco de Mayo?
Some people think of it as Mexico’s equivalent of our 4th of July celebrations. But it’s not their independence day. It’s actually the commemoration of the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. So, again, it’s really more about the tacos to us gringos.
My Cinco de Mayo Trifecta
While the 5th of May is a great time to pull out all the stops and make this trifecta, it’s basically the menu for every Mexican night and Taco Tuesday my family eats. We tend to have to have all of these recipes together and if we try and only eat tacos, we just miss the enchiladas and refried beans. And so… it’s a trifecta.
My mother got a hold of someone’s idea of what a taco should be in the late 1970’s. Yeah, I know… when dinosaurs roamed the earth! The recipe she was served included a taco sauce which has been my family’s favorite ever since. It used Old El Paso Hot Taco Sauce. Nothing else will do. I know it’s probably far from authentic and would make Rick Bayless sneer and curl up his lip and say something like, “That’s not a taco.” But hey, we’re embracing the gringo thing so to us, it’s a taco.
I brown 2 lbs. of ground beef and add a chopped yellow onion while it’s cooking. Stir in a can of tomato paste, about a teaspoon of cumin and a small bottle of the taco sauce.
We then top the meat with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sour cream, sliced black olives and picante or salsa. If you like it hot, you can add sliced jalapenos. Since going grain-free, we often skip the shredded lettuce and serve our tacos in leaf lettuce “wraps” instead of tortillas. I’m still working on finding an acceptable substitute for tortillas and I’ll post a recipe when I find something grain-free that I think is worthy.
The next recipe that makes our Cinco de Mayo great is the Green Enchiladas. We just call them Chicken Enchiladas but the original recipe which was shared with my mother was called “Green” Enchiladas so we’ll go with that. This simple recipe is so good. Again, I’ve modified it to make it grain-free but if you use tortillas, you’ll enjoy it’s original magnificence.
Start with 2 cups chopped cooked chicken or 2 cans (12.5 oz. each) of chunk white chicken in broth (use the broth in the recipe, do not drain), combine with 2 large onions chopped and sauteed until translucent and 1 lb. shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Mix filling and divide among 1 pkg. of 10 inch flour tortillas. Spread filling down the middle of each tortilla. Roll enchiladas and place in a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Make a roux of 1 stick of butter and 6-7 tablespoons of flour (I substitute 2 tablespoons of coconut flour and 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch or arrowroot). Whisk until combined over medium high heat. Add 1 box (32 oz.) or two cans (14.5 oz. each) of chicken broth, continue stirring until sauce is thickened (if too thick, add sour cream before thinning sauce). Stir in 1 lb. of sour cream. Thin sauce with additional broth or with milk, sauce should be pourable but not too thin. Stir in 2 cans (4.5 oz. each) of chopped green chilies. Pour the sauce over the rolled enchiladas. Using a spatula, separate enchiladas to allow sauce in between tortillas. Top with additional shredded cheese if desired. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until sauce is slightly browned and bubbly. Serve with salsa. If you really want to take these Green Enchiladas over the top, serve with green Tabasco sauce.
Refried Bean Casserole
I’m sure this recipe is just another Americanized version of a “Mexican” food, but it’s delicious and we have loved it. It is the necessary third dish of our Cinco de Mayo Trifecta.
I use two small cans (16 oz. each) or one large can (30 oz.) of refried beans. You can use any kind including black bean, vegetarian, low-fat or seasoned. Two small cans or one large can chopped green chilies. Spread beans in a casserole dish in an even layer. Top beans with chopped green chilies. Top with souffle mixture.
Souffle: 4 eggs separated, 4 tablespoons flour (or 2 tablespoons coconut flour and 1 tablespoon arrowroot) and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Mix flour and baking powder into yolks and add just enough water to make a smooth pourable paste. Beat egg whites until almost dry and stiff peaks form. Add yolk mixture into whites and fold gently until no white streaks are seen.
Bake casserole 45-55 minutes at 350 or until souffle is deep golden brown and cooked through. Serve with salsa or green Tabasco sauce.
These recipes have been a staple for my family for so many years and I can’t imagine a Cinco de Mayo without them. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have no matter what you are celebrating.