Many believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day but it is not. Cinco De Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla early in the Franco-Mexican War. In 1861 Mexican president Benito Juarez was indebted to France, Britain and Spain. Because the country was broke he was forced to default on the debts. While Brian and Spain negotiated with Mexico to resolve their issues. Napoleon III decided to use the opportunity to get a stronger foothold in the new world (there you go with that Napoleon complex thing again).
Certain that success would come swiftly, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez (1814-1892) set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his new headquarters in the north, Juárez rounded up a rag-tag force of 2,000 loyal men—many of them either indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestry—and sent them to Puebla. Led by Texas-born (Ya see, ya always need a Texan)General Ignacio Zaragoza (1829-1862), the vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez drew his army, well provisioned and supported by heavy artillery, before the city of Puebla and led an assault from the north. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers. Fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the clash .
This was not a strategic win for the Mexican Government, in fact in the annals of the Franco-Mexican War it was of little importance but it did serve to bolster the moral of the Mexican people and six-years later, with political help from the United States, the French withdrew.
Cinco de Mayo has become a day of celebration of the rich Mexican culture with parades, mariachi bands and street festivals. What I’m most impressed about are the vibrantly colorful dresses and men’s elegant suits.
I firmly believe that Cinco de Mayo, like Valentine’s Day, is a commercial day promoted by Corona and Dos Equis and other commercial enterprises. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Enough of FOODISTORY.
What I like most about Cinco de Mayo is of course the food. Like in any great meal you always start with a delicious soup and nothing is better than a savory Tortilla Soup, that has a little kick, . This recipe is from my friend Laura Johnston Steele. She got this recipe from Emerile Lagasse some 16 years ago. Needless to say she has added her own touches and made it her own and it’s DAMN GOOD!
- 1 Roasted Chicken
- 64 oz. of chicken stock (your favorite)
- 8 (7 inch) corn tortillas (Trader Joe’s are the best)
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 cups chopped onions
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
- 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded (about 6 to 8 Romas)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
As a garnish use:
- 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
- 2 fresh limes, cut into quarters
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves.
- Dab of Sour Cream
On starting out get a roasted chicken. Either roast your own, or if you are like me I go to Costco ($4.99, it is the cheapest and the best). I suggest buying one there because they are invariably juicy and delicious. If you roast one it’s just more prep time and I’m all about simple and gourmet.
So let’s get started with the soup. Preheat a deep frying pan with approximately 2 inches of vegetable oil. Cut half of the tortillas in quarters and thinly slice the other half. Fry both cuts for tortillas in batches, until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and set aside. In a stock pot, over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Sauté until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf and jalapeno. Continue to sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes. Crush the reserved fried tortilla quarters over the tomatoes. Stir to mix. Stir in the reserved chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes. Using a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth or leave chunky. Re-season the soup. Stir in the reserved diced chicken and cilantro. Simmer for another 5 minutes. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls. Garnish with the avocados, squeeze of lime juice, fresh cilantro, a dab of sour cream and the fried tortilla strips. Serve warm. You will not believe how savory this is to kick-off a series of Marquita’s.
Live Well, Eat Well!!