Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mexican Cinco de Mayo Green Dinner

All of the Earth Day celebrations last past week must have had me thinking green when it came to making a Cinco de Mayo dinner. Cinco de Mayo is May 5, of course. Did you think it was the Mexican Independence Day? Many people do, but it is not!

Let me first educate you all about Cinco de Mayo in a very brief history lesson:

Did you know that for a time, Mexico was ruled by a Hapsburg prince?

In 1862 Emperor Maximillian and his wife, Carlota, were sent to rule Mexico by Napoleon III. Why, you ask? After Mexico declared its independence from Spain in September of 1810, it borrowed money from France. But when France wanted the money back, Mexico was unable to pay off the debt. So France sent troops to collect or take over.

The French had the best army in the world and it was well-equipped. When they arrived at Puebla (the capital of the state of Puebla), there was a battle in which the poor Mexican farmers made sport of the French.

Sadly, in the end, the French won the war and took over Mexico for some years. But the battle of Puebla on May 5 1862, is remembered as a day of great Mexican pride. It is celebrated not only in Puebla, but through out Mexico, and the places where populations of Mexicans live in the US.

So let's celebrate the earth and Mexican heritage with a green Mexican dinner!

It all started out when I was at the grocery store a few days ago and found myself in the produce section where the green Mexican ingredients were begging me to buy them! I bought large tomatillos, beautiful poblano chiles (peppers), and cilantro. With ingredients in hand, I headed home to find some recipes.

Being a Spanish teacher who studied in Mexico, I have a number of good Mexican Cookbooks. I turned to
The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz. I am a huge fan of this book, which was published way back when I was just one year old. The recipes seem very traditional to me, and not too gourmet. They promote authentic Mexican Cuisine.

The book magically opened to Arroz Verde on page 64. Well, maybe it opened to page 64 because it is the page that I most often visit.

I looked at her recipe for Pipián Verde, but I had fresh tomatillos, and her recipes called for canned. I was most interested in making a Pipián Verde (a green chicken fricassee) and I really wasn’t sure of the conversion rate, so I turned to the Internet for a recipe.

I did an advanced search on Epicurious.com for the tomatillos with the main ingredient of chicken. A recipe for Chicken in Green Pumpkin-Seed Sauce came up.
I made the chicken almost immediately and put in in the fridge, deciding to make the sauce the next day. Before going to bed later that evening, I shut down my computer.

Remembering that what I saw was a recipe for Pipián Verde, when I went to Epicurious the next day, I changed my search words to pipian verde. I clicked on the link that appeared, the only recipe they had with those words in the title.

It only took a moment to realize that this recipe was different, but it looked much better than the other one. Therefore, I would use the chicken I made with the first recipe, and the sauce of this new recipe.

The result was an absolutely delicious meal that I felt I had to share. So I made a second batch of it. Then on Monday, I shared this wonderful green meal with my hard-working Spanish 3 students (there are only 13 of them) who have probably never tried food like this in their lives.

One can't expect that a bunch of teenagers are going to fall in love with traditional Mexican cooking, but I think they appreciated it, and I'm sure that a number of them really enjoyed it. They approached the new flavors and ingredients with an open mind and that warmed my heart.

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