Here are a few ideas to help you create a festive Cinco de Mayo dinner to enjoy on this day which often is a broad celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, though it began as a commemoration of the Battle of Puebla. On May 5, (Cinco de Mayo) 1862, the outnumbered and out-gunned Mexican Army defeated the great French Army, and although the French did not withdraw from Mexico for four more years, the Battle of Puebla remained a great source of pride and inspiration to the Mexican people. This year, I suggest that you prepare these recipes for your friends and family to set the mood for a fiesta.
My choice for drinks at a Cinco de Mayo celebration would be margaritas. A basic recipe calls for two parts tequila, one part triple sec, and one part lime juice, served over ice. This could also be blended with ice to make a frozen margarita. You could also create your own variation: substitute half or all of the lime juice with another of your favorite fruit juices such as pineapple or cherry, or add a splash of soda water for fizz.
For a non-alcoholic option that feels just as festive, make mock sangria. Start with a quart of pomegranate juice. Add one cup of white grape juice, one cup of apple juice, one liter of lemon-lime soda, and two cups of chopped fruit (pineapple, orange, grapefruit, lemon, halved seedless grapes, mango, papaya, and cantaloupe work well).
Start out your meal with chips, salsa and guacamole – dips that are easy to make yourself, and well worth the effort.
For your salsa, start by dicing a few tomatoes – about one per cup of salsa you want. Then add from this list to your taste: diced red or white onion, diced bell pepper, diced jalapeno, chipotle, or ancho pepper, corn, black beans, diced pineapple, chopped cilantro or mint. Toss all ingredients with lime juice, and add salt and pepper to taste.
For your guacamole, start by peeling your avocado and removing the core. At this point you can either mash the avocado flesh with a fork or blend it in a food processor for a smoother texture. Add lemon or lime juice a splash at a time until you achieve the desired consistency. If desired, add diced tomato or red onion, and chopped cilantro.
A festive entrée to serve at your Cinco de Mayo dinner is Pollo Poblano, (chicken in poblano cream sauce), which comes from the Puebla region of Mexico, where they great Battle of Puebla took place.
- 3-4 poblano chiles, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup Mexican crema or heavy cream
- salt to taste
- 2 whole chicken breasts, cut in half
- 1 cup grated manchego, jack or gouda cheese
Puree the chiles in a blender with the milk until smooth. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter, add the flour and brown lightly. Add the chile puree, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or a wire whisk until smooth. Lower the heat, add the cream, and stir constantly until the sauce begins to bubble. Remove from heat and add salt to taste. This sauce may be made one day ahead and refrigerated.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and saute chicken breast halves for 4 minutes on each side. Place them in a buttered baking dish, pour the poblano cream sauce over all, top with the grated cheese and bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven at 350º for 20 minutes. The cheese will be golden and bubbly.
For dessert, everybody will love fried ice cream, made by rolling ice cream in crushed corn flakes, then frying in oil. See instructions here.