Feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Today Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s glorious food, Mexican arts and cultural heritage around the world!
However a very brief account of Cinco de Mayo’s roots tells a tale of one episode in Mexico’s long and rocky journey towards independence and sovereignty.
Hernan Cortez invaded Mexico in 1521, toppled the Aztecs, and established Spanish rule in Mexico for the next 340 years. In 1861 Napoleon III invaded and conquered Spain and declared it a part of the his French empire. The French then invaded Mexico, defeated the Spanish forces, and took control of the country. On May 5, 1862, during the Franco Mexican War, a vastly outnumbered ragtag Mexican army managed to defeat the occupying French forces in the battle of Puebla. Although the battle was not the definitive end of French occupation, it was a symbolic victory that foreshadowed Mexico’s eventual independence from European domination.
Mexico’s road to independence was again challenged with The United State’s expansionists desires for Mexico’s north American territories that included Texas, Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico, and the Altas Californias. The Mexican American War ensued and ended in 1848 with Mexico ceding their northern territories to the United States for fifteen million dollars and three million dollars in assumed Mexican debt. The Rio Grande River was established as the Mexican American border as it is to this day.
In spite of enduring a tumultuous past Mexican’s have always steadfastly embraced their indigenous cultures and traditions through their arts, music, and food that so colorfully expresses la vida Mexicana!
And what better way to celebrate the essence of real Mexican food than tacos! There are tacos and then there are TACOS Mexican style. My very favorite is picante Mexican chorizo soft tacos, served open faced, topped with fresh cilantro, a smattering of salsa, and a spritz of lime juice. Plain and simple!
Mexican chorizo, unlike the Spanish hard cured chorizo, is soft and highly spiced with chillies, along with fresh herbs, and aromatic spices. Be sure to try chorizo wherever you are traveling in Mexico. Every region has their own recipes that should not be missed!
Mexican chorizo, as well as chillies, herbs, and spices needed for making your own chorizo at home are available in markets in Mexican communities and suppliers online.
The recipe that follows is adapted from Diana Kennedy’s recipe for Chorizo de Huetamo (Hot-Country- Sausages) in her book The Art of Mexican Cooking.
Mexican Chorizo Soft Tacos makes about 16 to 18 tacos
Tortillas (little cakes) date back to the 10th century BC in Mexico. Always served fresh off the griddle (comal). Highly unlikely in this day and age. Store bought corn tortillas are stiff rubbery discs that are nothing like freshly made corn tortillas and should be avoided at all costs. That said, your best option for soft tacos are flour tortillas, either home made (see recipe here) or store bought which are perfectly acceptable if heated properly. Simple enough. Place a kitchen towel in a microwave safe dish. Prepare parchment squares to place between each tortilla. Mist each tortilla with water, top with parchment, and continue stacking the desired number of tortillas needed. Fold the towel snugly over and around the tortillas and microwave for about 20 seconds. They will be perfectly soft, moist, and pliable.
Marinate the pork at least 2 days before you intend to cook the chorizo.
- 2.2 pounds/1 kilo marbled ground pork
- 12-14 long dried red chillies (hot) ; guajillo, or a combination of dried (hot) chilies that are available
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 2 small bay leaves, center vein removed
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
- 12 peppercorns
- 4 whole clove buds
- ¼ teaspoon dried allspice powder
- 2 tablespoons red ground chile powder or paprika
- 1 tablespoon flaked sea salt + more to taste
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon packed fresh chopped marjoram leaves
- 1 tablespoon packed chopped fresh thyme leaves
- ½ cup Juarez vinegar
- 6 inch/15.5cm flour tortillas, fresh or store bought
- fresh cilantro leaves
- lime wedges
- salsa fresca
- sour cream (optional)
Split the dried chilies lengthwise with a sharp knife and remove the seeds and interior veins. Tear the chilies into pieces, place in a saucepan, and just cover with water. Heat to a simmer and cook until the chilies are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the chilies and place them in a non-reactive bowl and add the cider vinegar. Set aside to marinate for at least an hour.
Place bay leaves Mexican oregano, coriander seeds, peppercorns, clove buds, allspice powder, red ground chile powder or paprika, and salt in a spice grinder and pulse while shaking until the contents are finely ground.
Place the garlic, marjoram leaves, thyme leaves, and reconstituted chillies into a blender jar along with half of the cider vinegar. Add the ground herbs, spices, chile powder or paprika, and salt. Cover the blender jar and pulse until the ingredients are broken down. Stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides of the jar. Stop the blender and add the Juarez vinegar. Cover and blend the ingredients into a smooth marinade. If the marinade is very thick add some water a tablespoon at a time, and blend until the marinade is thinned a bit, but not too thin. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Break up the pork in a large non-reactive bowl and add the marinade. Fold and mash the marinade into the pork until completely mixed into the pork. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for several days, stirring every 12 hours, until the pork has absorbed the marinade.
Once the pork is marinated it can be portioned and refrigerated for a couple of days, or frozen for later use.
Cooking the chorizo
- marinated pork chorizo mixture
- peanut oil
Note: Purchased chorizo is always in a casing, which is removed before breaking up the meat for cooking. Making your own Chorizo eliminates the step of removing the casing!
For the best results you want to cook the chorizo in batches, without crowding in the pan, as you want to render the fat out of the pork and discard some of it before serving. The fat, of course, enhances the flavor of the chorizo, but too much may be overkill, so rely on your own taste.
Heat a large skillet (or wok) over medium high flame. Add a tablespoon of peanut oil in the center and swirl to distribute it evenly. Add the marinated chorizo mixture to the pan and begin stirring briskly as the meat seers. Continue cooking until the chorizo is lightly colored. The texture may appear a little dry and crumbly which is how it should be. Move the pork to one side of the pan and tilt the pan so the fat gathers on the lower side and is easy to spoon out and discard what you consider excessive. Set the cooked chorizo aside while you continue cooking remaining chorizo. When you are ready to serve reheat the chorizo and add a little water to moisten and plump up a bit.
Assembling the tacos
As mentioned, soft tacos are served open faced in Mexico. A much more practical presentation that allows for the addition of various condiments before rolling up the taco for eating.
Place a warm tortilla on an individual plate and add the cooked chorizo spread in the center of the tortilla. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve. Have various condiments set out on the table including salsa fresca, lime wedges, and sour cream (optional).
Fold the taco as pictured.