When I asked Mexican friends about Cinco de Mayo, they told me Cinco de Mayo isn’t a big holiday in Mexico. Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th and this is the day people in Mexico have big celebrations. They told me Cinco de Mayo was an invention of the Corona Beer Company to get American’s to buy their beer. With all the crazy conspiracy theories going on now, (and some people thinking you get coronavirus from Corona beer), I decided to research the facts about Cinco de Mayo. De nada.
Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico, celebrating the victory of the Mexican army over the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. In the U.S. during the 60’s and 70’s, it became a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage for Mexican-Americans, especially in areas where there were large Mexican-American populations. The holiday really became a big deal in the U.S. in 1989 when the San Antonio-based Gambrinus Group, an importer of Corona beer, launched a Cinco de Mayo themed ad encouraging Mexican-Americans to drink Mexican beer.
By the late 90’s, Americans linked drinking Corona beer as a key way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The actual historic events of the date are unknown to most Americans and Cinco de Mayo is now basically an excuse to party. It is now the U.S.’s largest beer drinking holiday, surpassing beer sold on Saint Patrick’s Day and even the Super Bowl. It seems like the Gambrinus Group’s ingenious plan worked and they still spend $1 on advertising for every case of beer sold. We’ll see how Corona sales go in 2020, but if you don’t want to drink Corona, I have a recipe for a Perfect Margarita below.
Use up those leftovers!
I hesitate to call this a recipe, since it’s so easy and adaptable and a perfect way to use up a variety of leftovers. The original recipe was with uncooked skirt steak, 1/2 cup of lime juice and 2 to 3 garlic cloves, chopped, but I adapted it to use with already-cooked meats. It’s good with leftover steak, pork or chicken. You could even use shiitake mushrooms, if you are avoiding meat.
If I don’t have 1/2 cup of lime juice, I use whatever I have. If I don’t have lime, I use lemon juice; fresh garlic is best, but jarred will do in a pinch. But since there are so few ingredients, try to use fresh.
It’s really best to use a cast iron skillet for cooking this, if you have one and make sure you cook the peppers and onions first, as it helps flavor the meat. I sometimes throw in some jalapeño pepper, if I want some heat. You can even serve the fajita meat in the skillet, as they do at restaurants, sizzling as it arrives at your table. I would serve this with refried beans and rice for a complete meal.
- 1- 2 cups leftover meat
- 1/2 lime juice
- 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 Bell peppers, sliced, deveined and de-seeded, sliced in strips
- 2 White onions, sliced
- Flour tortillas
Marinate meat for 1 to 2 hours in lime juice and garlic.
Preheat oven to 350. Put flour tortillas in foil, seal up and heat in oven 10- 15 minutes.
Heat cast iron skillet on medium-high. Add a tablespoon olive oil and brown the onion. Remove. Add more oil & brown the bell peppers, until they’re slightly blistered. Remove. Add meat and cook just until warmed up.
Line up peppers, onions, meat and serve with hot flour tortillas and desired accompaniments. These can include: sour cream, salsa, guacamole, cilantro and/or pickled jalapeños. Enjoy!
I whip up Pico de Gallo whenever I need to add a pop of color, flavor or a bit of heat to Mexican dishes. It’s easy to make and is good on eggs, tacos, grilled meats or served with tortilla chips. If you have a tomato, an onion and a lime or lemon, you’re good to go.
Pico de Gallo
- 1 Ripe tomato, stem part removed, diced
- 1/2 white onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1 lime, squeezed
- 1/2 jalapeno or serrano pepper, deveined and de seeded, chopped fine
- cilantro, chopped
Combine all ingredients. Taste. Add more salt or lime juice if needed. Cilantro (some love it, some hate it) is optional. This lasts a couple days in the fridge.
“Wasting away again...”
A Margarita is my drink of choice in the Keys, but it’s surprisingly hard to get a good margarita at Key Largo restaurants, and most of them are closed now anyway. So here, to my taste, is the Perfect Margarita, which takes no time to whip up and has significantly less calories than most restaurant versions. Only three ingredients, but fresh lime juice is “key”. I sometimes make it with Key limes, but squeezing those little limes will get in the way of your time to drink the Perfect Margarita!
The Perfect Margarita
- 2 ounces tequila (I prefer Patron Silver)
- 1 ounce Cointreau
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
If you want salt on the rim, circle rim of glass with lime juice and dip in salt. I like Kosher salt flavored with cumin, cayenne and a dash of Old Bay.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add lime juice, cointreau and tequila. Shake vigourously. Pour into a margarita glass and garnish with a lime slice.
Enjoy. (Listening to Jimmy Buffet music while you do this is optional). This is MY perfect margarita, but if you want less alcohol, use 1 1/2 ounces of tequila. If you like a sweeter version, add 1/2 ounce more Cointreau; and if you’re down to your “last shaker of salt” or just don’t like it, skip it.
Now that you know these super easy Mexican dishes, you can whip up a Mexican feast for your family like Speedy Gonzales. Arriba, arriba!
Up Next: How to Shop Safely at the Grocery Store and Spring Meals.