Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco De Mayo Menu & Memories

Contrary to what most Americans think, Cinco de Mayo is not just a reason to drink Corona beer! It is a day to remember the Battle of Puebla, when the Mexicans defeated the French in a battle. Of course, the French went on to beat the soup out of Mexico with regards to the whole war, but who's counting? You can read more about Cinco de Mayo here and here.

I had the incredible experience of studying for a summer (OK, it was more like a month) in Puebla. Western State College offers classes in business and Spanish and some other things that have escaped me in the OVER TEN YEARS since I went. (Where does time go?) We had classes on the rooftop of our hotel in the crisp morning air, overlooking Popo, the smoking volcano. Good times.

We also spent a few hours each day accompanied by locals, practicing our Spanish and visiting area attractions. One place I remember well was the Casa Serdán, although this article doesn't tell the story the way I remember it. I remember that the family was involved somehow in the revolution, and one of the brothers hid under the floor for several days until he developed a cough from the dampness and was discovered. There is a photograph at the beginning of the museum of the family seated on a sofa with an ornate mirror in the background. At the end, the same mirror is hanging on the wall but it was shot up in scuffle!

So. I was going to post some recipes, huh? This is what I like to fix for Cinco de Mayo. Due to lack of planning and Hubs in the tractor planting anyway, we did not enjoy this menu tonight. Perhaps you can join me in trying it out next year, eh?

I have used this taco seasoning mix on both hamburger and chicken and it's good either way. There are tons of recipes out there for seasoning, though, and I'm not convinced this is the best one. It's just darn handy when I don't have a packet in the pantry (and doesn't contain weird, unpronouncable things or MSG.)

Taco Seasoning Mix

1 T chili powder
1 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
1 t paprika
1 t cumin
1 t oregano
1 t cornstarch

Combine all ingredients, add to one pound of cooked hamburger, chicken, etc. Add 3/4 cup of water and simmer 5 minutes.

The first time I tried this Spanish Rice, I was transported back to any number of restaurants where I ate in Mexico. Since I'm not much of a meat eater, I ate a significant amount of rice in my travels. This WILL burn on the bottom if you aren't careful, and it is a bit sticky. Just the way God intended it to be. My only problems of late have been that I've tried subbing my homemade tomato sauce for the paste and some water, and the sauce is too strong (tomatoey?) and it overpowers. But that's just me. I hate recipes that tell you to add to taste because I never know where to start. I'm thinking somewhere around a tablespoon of each.

Spanish Rice

1 c long grain rice
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 c water
1 T tomato paste
1 1/2 T chicken bouillon
Oregano, cumin, chili powder to taste

Brown rice in a bit of oil. Add veggies and saute a bit. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer until tender. (Check your rice instructions, maybe 20-25 minutes?)

These beans are honest to goodness the best I've eaten, although I still need to tinker with the salt in my cooked from dried beans versus using canned ones. It's a random recipe, so adjust amounts to your family's preferences. The original recipe noted you could use pinto beans instead; I like black beans so much I've never tried pintos. (Scroll down for how I cook dried black beans.)

"Refried" Beans

Saute finely minced onion and garlic in oil over medium heat. Drain most of the liquid out of a can of black beans and add to pan. Heat about 5 minutes or until beans are soft and heated through, then mash with a potato masher until they reach desired consistency. *IMPORTANT* Stir in a spoonful or two of sour cream and several spoonfulls of salsa. (If you can't get hold of a jar of my dad's salsa, just do what you can and hope for the best. :>)) You can salt and pepper to taste, although I usually don't bother. I'm already eating by then.

I usually serve the above with tortillas; one of these years I'm going to try making my own. I also like to have other taco fixings; shredded cheese, lettuce, and diced tomatoes (in season only, thank you!). One of my favorite recipe sites is Tammy's Recipes and I really enjoy her recipe for nacho cheese sauce. It freezes pretty well, too. She also has recipes for spinach tortillas, jalapeño cheddar tortillas, pinto beans, bean tacos, and tips on rolling tortilla dough.

Usually when I make beans, I use dried black beans and refer to A Year of Crockpotting's tutorial for cooking beans and then freeze the rest. As noted above, I still think I'm not salting them enough, though. I overbought my dried beans (you were right, Mom!), and I'm wondering if I shouldn't get to cooking and freeze/can them. I think I've read about canning beans, anyway. Whew, I have enough to probably just about last until Jesus's second coming . . .

Please feel free to share your favorite Mexican recipes either via a link or comment!


Angela said...

Oooo, I LOVE Mexican food! Thanks for the recipes!

Annemarie said...

I lived in El Paso, Texas for a while and of course had a lot of Mexican food. However, most of the seasonings and peppers didn't agree with me :( However, one of the restaurants I regularly went to would make me chicken or steak milanesa - basically a breaded steak or chicken. Boy was that good. I haven't made them on my own; actually I had forgotten about it. I should try and find a recipe for it.

My husband and kids love Mexican food so I make quite a bit of it.

Thanks for bringing the memory of milanesa back to me!

Lenetta @ Nettacow said...

Annemarie, please post if you try making milanesa! It sounds interesting!

I have some friends who are currently Maryknoll missionaries in Ciudad Juarez. They send out a quarterly newsletter and the Christmas one was a bit scary but the Easter one held a bit of hope. They mentioned 500 bus drivers were out of work because of factories shutting down - such a ripple effect.

Complete side note there, sorry! I'd better go make sure the Goose isn't covered in ketchup.

Sarah said...

We had tacos on Tuesday too!