Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know: El Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates Mexico's victory against France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862 – during the French-Mexican War – isn't much of a holiday in Mexico. It's definitely not Mexican Independence Day; that would be September 16. My smart Dallas Morning News colleague Cassandra Jaramillo explains it all here.)
In fact, given that el Cinco de Mayo is all about a war between two of our favorite countries, it wouldn't even seem to be one Cooks Without Borders would celebrate.
However . . .
There is that irresistible cross-cultural thing. And there is the fact that it has turned into an American holiday that celebrates Mexican culture, largely through food. So, hey – we're on!
And we've got some great things for you to cook, starting with my favorite guacamole, which you can whip up tonight.
Here's the recipe:
So, guac and chips – and beers and margaritas. Then a Caesar salad.
But not just any Caesar salad; this is he most insanely delicious Caesar ever. No doubt you remember that the Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana, so yes, it's Mexican. But this is a modern take – a boffo version of a recipe I thought could be improved.
Next, the main event: carnitas. Killer carnitas! I promise you these are way easier to make than you might imagine.
I know what you're thinking. This is a lot to whip up on a Friday evening, when you have to work all day.
How about this: You could just make the guacamole tonight and make a whole big fabulous Mexican feast tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. After all, it's not a real holiday, so you don't have to celebrate it on the exact day.
Meanwhile, as long as you're going to make carnitas, you really should have some wonderful warm corn tortillas to wrap them in. Right?
Don't worry – I'm not suggesting you go through the elaborate process of making nixtamal. I know you don't have a molina to grind the corn; I don't either. I'm talking cheater corn tortillas made from mixing masa harina with warm water, rolling and pressing them into disks and throwing them on a griddle. Try this once, and you'll be hooked for life. Just don't tell Diana Kennedy.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? This is turning into a taco party.
So you'll want some salsas. My favorite with carnitas is salsa verde, which is really simple to make; roasting the tomatillos and serranos takes it to another level. Pass around bowls of guacamole, cilantro leaves, chopped onion, queso fresco, sliced radishes and lime wedges and invite your pals. (Yep, they can bring the beer.) Taco party achieved!
Here's a bonus recipe, in case you're looking for an all-consuming Mexican cooking project: a lamb barbacoa recipe adapted from Alex Stupak's cookbook.
This, of course, is crazy-good wrapped in corn tortillas. As long as you're going to all that trouble, you might as well make salsa borracha, too.
But wait – what about dessert?
Oh, I am *so* excited to tell you what we have in store: two of my absolute favorite recipes that have ever been on the blog. The first, perfect for this season (and for this holiday) is Strawberry-Mezcal Ice Cream.
As you can imagine, it is really good with a sip (or 10) of mezcal.
It would also be fantastic with another of my favorite desserts: the Mexican Chocolate "Situation." Sounds like something that could have led to the Battle of Puebla, doesn't it? Which brings us full circle. This recipe has been a reader favorite, too – border-free cooks who have made it have gone crazy for it.
Starring the flavors of Mexican chocolate, these rich, creamy bars use almond flour rather than wheat flour, so they're deliciously gluten-free.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!