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Just What Is Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner. What are you making? I’m serving Tequila Marinated Chicken Fajitas and margaritas, of course.

I like giving a bit of history in my blog, and I must admit I always believed Cinco de Mayo was Mexican Independence Day. “Better double check this, Carol,” I said to myself. Boy, am I glad I did. Mexican Independence Day is actually celebrated on September 16. I learned this is the date Miguel Hidalgo and “Grito de Dolores”—a call to arms—declared war against the Spanish colonial government in 1810.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the date the Mexican army was victorious over the French in 1862. This holiday has an interesting story and reminds me a bit of the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine—another David versus Goliath story.

In 1861 Benito Juárez, a lawyer and member of the Indigenous Zapotec tribe, was elected president of Mexico. At that time, Mexico was in a dire financial condition, and Juárez was forced to default on loan payments to European governments.

To retaliate Britain, France, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz demanding repayment of their debt. Juárez negotiated with Britain and Spain, and their forces returned to Europe. Napoleon III, however, saw an opportunity to expand his empire into Mexico. In late 1861 large, well-armed, French forces stormed Veracruz forcing Juárez to retreat, which, in turn, prompted the French to march towards Mexico City.

Things didn’t go as the French planned as they met heavy resistant in the town of Puebla. The Mexican Army, led by Ignacio Zaratoza, defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The French lost 500 soldiers, while the Mexicans only lost 100. Although this battle didn’t end the war, it ignited the fighting spirit and morale of the Mexican Army to continue to combat the foreign power trying to usurp their homeland. After a long, hard-fought war, the Mexicans sent the French packing.

Now that I know the true story behind Cinco de Mayo, I will enjoy celebrating this day even more—a day that commemorates the fighting spirit of an underdog opposing a more powerful, better equipped army trying to conquer their homeland—just like in Ukraine.

Tequila Marinated Chicken Fajitas Serves 6

For the chicken:

½ cup tequila ¼ cup lime juice ¼ cup soy sauce 3 dashes Tabasco® sauce ½ teaspoon large grind black pepper 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

In a large bowl, combine tequila, lime juice, soy sauce, Tabasco® sauce, and black pepper. Add chicken breasts, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate 4 hours in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.

Remove chicken from the marinade and reserve marinade. Grill breasts over hot coals until they’re almost done. Cut breasts into ¼ to ½-inch strips. 12 (7-inch) flour tortillas, warmed If you don’t have a tortilla warmer, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Wrap 3 to 4 tortillas per package in aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 10 minutes.

For the chicken and vegetable fajita mixture: 12 tablespoons vegetable oil for sautéing Reserved marinade 3 cups green, red, and/or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ¼ to ½-inch strips 3 cups red onion, peeled and sliced into ¼ to ½-inch strips 3 cups tomato, cored and cut into wedges (optional) Grilled chicken breasts, cut into ¼ to ½-inch strips

For each serving place 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons reserved marinade in a large skillet. Sauté ½ cup each of bell pepper and onion over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add one-sixth chicken breasts (and tomato wedges if using) and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.

For the garnish: Shredded Cheddar cheese Sour Cream Carol Ann’s Guacamole Your favorite salsa Pickled sliced jalapeño peppers Chopped fresh cilantro to taste

To serve: It is nice to serve this in a fajita skillet if you have one. Place Cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro in separate serving bowls so those you invite to your table can customize their fajitas.

Carol Ann’s Guacamole 4 large ripe avocados ¾ cup red onion, chopped 1 tomato, chopped ¾ cup diced green chiles 1 teaspoon minced garlic 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice Remove skins and seeds from avocados. With a spoon, scope out avocado meat into a medium bowl and mash with a fork, leaving some small chunks. Add onion, tomato, green chiles, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Blend gently.

Shopping for avocados: If you want to use your avocado immediately, select one that yields to gentle pressure. If you are shopping ahead and plan to use the avocado in a few days, pick one that is firm to the touch. Pass up avocados that are bright green and feel rock hard. They are difficult to ripen. Also, don’t buy this vegetable if it is sunken, shriveled, or feels mushy.

Storing avocados: Avocados should be stored at room temperature until they are ready to eat. To speed the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with an apple. Once ripe, avocados will keep up to 2 days in the refrigerator. If you only use half of an avocado, leave the pit in, brush the flesh with lemon juice, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Storing cilantro: Cilantro will keep 1 week in a plastic bag when refrigerated. To keep cilantro fresher a bit longer, place it in a glass of water, cover with a plastic bag, and secure the bag to the glass with a rubber band. Change the water every 2 to 3 days.

Carol Ann


Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Insider Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Carol Ann Kates

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