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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

By Jane Butel  May 1, 2019

What we are celebrating when we celebrate Cinco de Mayo is known as the Battle of Puebla in Mexico.  That is when Santa Ana and his "ragger muffin" militia defeated Napolean on a hill outside the City of Puebla, Mexico on May the 5th, 1862.   It was a huge victory as the Mexican people had made a decision that they had had enough of the autocratic rule of the French ruler, Maximilian and his wife Carlotta.   During his reign, the Mexican people were not allowed to train their own military--hence Santa Ana was directing a Militia of workers who had no uniforms or serious training--making the victory totally amazing!

At the time of the battle, the Mexican people were directing a horse drawn carriage with Maximilian and  Carlotta from the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City to the Port of Vera Cruz for their voyage back to France.

Most Mexican people do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo as much as  Americans do--I personally think we can thank the beer industry for making it a big party--but what the hay--it is great fun.  The Bizcochito cookie was developed in Mexico to celebrate this occasion.  Most do not seem to  know that it is a Lard Shortbread--making it critical to roll the dough to only a 3/8 inch thickness and roll it frozen between layers of waxed paper.  The cookies were originally cut into the fluer de lis shape so the women could say as they cut out the cookies "stamp out the French".  Many not having a "man and a tin can" would cut the cookies into a Spanish fan with a small sharp knife. (The reason being cans and canning were invented at about the same time in France and not many cans had made it to Mexico--and men were scarce as they were in the Militia.) 

Our fresh, fresh anise seeds really make the cookies yummy and I am putting them on sale until Saturday, May 4.  Also our Chipotle chiles--critical for making the real Pico de Gallo are on sale as they are totally Mexican, created by the Aztecs as a way to preserve red ripe jalapenos by smoking them. Pico de Gallo is traditionally served over Fajitas--so I am sharing all of the above recipes here.

And by the way, don't forget that our cooking classes, Oaxaca tour, gift boxes and  autographed cookbooks make great Mother's Day gifts.

BIZCOCHITOS

These spicy, anise-flavored cookies from New Mexico are rich, crisp, and very easy to make. They are the state cookie of New Mexico and one of my holiday favorites. They were first made to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Puebla, Mexico where Santa Ana's army defeated Napoleon's.  Due to this, the cookie is traditionally made in the Fleur de Lis shape of the stylized iris on the French flag.    Stored in a tightly sealed container, they can be frozen up to six months.

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Baking Time: 10 to 12 minutes

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

1 ½ cups lard, chilled

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

2 eggs

2 teaspoons anise seeds

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

About 3 tablespoons brandy, apple juice, or milk

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat lard until fluffy, then add 1 cup sugar in a bowl and beat again until fluffy. Add eggs and anise seeds, and beat until very light and fluffy. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add alternately with the brandy to creamed mixture, mixing in about a fourth of the flour mixture each time. Mix thoroughly to make a stiff dough. Place dough on a long piece, about three feet of waxed paper at one end. Bring the long end over the top and press to about 3/8 inch or slightly less in thickness and freeze until chilled.)
  1. Roll out dough between waxed paper to just under 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with flour dusted cutters into the traditional fleur de lis shape or into 3-inch rounds or fashion into Spanish fans, making several narrow cuts into 1 to 2 inch rectangles of dough and curling them around.  Combine the 3 remaining tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon in a shallow bowl; dip unbaked cookies into the sugar-cinnamon mixture on the top  side. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops of cookies are just firm.
  1. Cool cookies on wire racks.

Notes: Butter or margarine can be substituted for the lard, however the cookies will not be as crisp and moist. Apple juice or milk can be substituted for the brandy, however they are not quite as good.

PICO DE GALLO

This salsa is supposed to be so hot you will jump as high as the top of a cock’s comb and kick your heels.  This is the literal translation of this dish’s name.  The salsa originated in northern Mexico and was originally made with chipotle chiles.   This salsa is a staple with fajitas.

Yield:  1-1/2 cups

 1  large tomato, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 Spanish onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
¼ cup fresh lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl, cover, and marinate at least 15 minutes to develop natural juices before serving.

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