Author: Chef Pati Jinich
In the United States, the 5th of May used to be just another spring day. But something happened! While the date, which Americans often mistake as Mexico’s Independence Day, commemorates a little-known military victory called The Battle of Puebla — a David-versus-Goliath-type victory for the Mexican militia over the bigger, better-equipped French forces — Cinco de Mayo has morphed into a beloved celebration of all things from Mexico!
Growing up in Mexico, I learned about the battle in history class, and in the State of Puebla, the holiday has been more of a formal local government event, marked with a military parade. On the other hand, those stateside might partake in devouring tacos and eating delicious guacamole and dips at restaurants, patios, and backyards. But there’s a way to bring some traditional Cinco de Mayo customs to your day’s festivities. In fact, Cinco de Mayo is the perfect day to impress friends and family with a more authentic Cinco de Mayo party full of traditional food that’s delicious to boot.
For guacamole, serve a version found in Puebla, where the Cinco de Mayo battle occurred. Impress friends with a tidbit of culinary history as you tell them that people in this part of Mexico — known as a cradle of Mexican cuisine — often add savory pecans to their guacamole. The habit is part of the region’s distinctive food heritage — a baroque tradition of richly layered flavors and ingredients that developed as local cooks, including nuns in local convents, prepared food for visiting Spanish dignitaries in centuries past. The nuns became known for decadent dishes and sauces such as mole, and delicious sweets made with nuts. They passed on the tradition of using nuts both for savory and sweet. So it’s not much of a surprise to find out that they tossed them into batches of creamy guacamole — a delicious, crunchy addition! Here’s my version of Pecan Guacamole. By the way, if you want or need to make your guacamole well in advance of your party, try my really neat tip for keeping it green by pouring a thin layer of milk on top of it and then draining it off when ready to serve!
No Cinco de Mayo celebration is complete without a toast to Mexico and its people! Mix up my South of the Border-inspired Sweet Chili Avo Cocktail. Start with a simple syrup made of piloncillo (unprocessed cane sugar), or you can also use dark brown sugar, water, and mint, then blend it with avocado, silver tequila, lime juice, and just a bit of chopped jalapeño for a little zip!
Finally, make Chicken Tinga and Avocado Tostadas, a savory blend of shredded chicken, onion, tomatoes, chipotles in adobo and spices — topped with a generous slice of avocado. It makes the perfect main course for the party buffet! And you can use leftover Tinga for wraps or taco filling later in the week.
Before you try these recipes, have a stash of ripe avocados ready to go! My video tips can help you pick the perfect avos by holding them in the palm of your hand and giving them a gentle squeeze. Or learn how to speed the ripening process by putting your Avocado From Mexico in a paper sack with a banana.
Now, you’re ready with recipes and the real backstory on the phenomenon known as Cinco de Mayo! Enjoy the day!