Cinco de Mayo is one of the biggest Mexican holidays celebrated here in the U.S., but most Americans don’t know what they’re actually celebrating – and, to make matters worse, many celebrate with inauthentic “Mexican” meals! As far as why we have “fiestas” on the 5th of May, one very common misconception people in the US have is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. However, it’s actually the celebration of the Mexican army’s 1863 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War!
But the misunderstandings don’t stop there. On the food front, you’ll often see Americans indulging in hard tacos and nachos – even though neither is very popular in Mexico! In authentic Mexican cuisine, our tacos are made with soft fresh corn or flour tortillas. Sometimes we fry them flat and add ingredients to the top, but we don’t call those hard tacos – they’re tostadas. To celebrate this holiday like we do south of the border, I’ve created recipes that lose the hard shell taco, but none of the crunch. If you have a hankering for the real deal, these tostadas are for you!
I’ve created “Tostadas Three Ways” for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and I love these because they are the perfect bites to have ready when guests arrive. I always suggest preparing something in advance, so you’re not flustered trying to get the main course ready – and tostadas work perfectly for that. From the three variations I designed, pick your favorites and it will come together in a pinch!
The first is a Wild Mushroom with Whipped Queso Fresco and Cilantro-Cotija Pesto Tostada. This recipe is perfect for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike and has deep, layered flavors that will be sure to impress your friends and family thanks to a generous drizzle of pesto reimagined with cilantro, basil, olive oil, chile, garlic, pumpkin seeds and, of course, Cacique Cotija.
The Grilled Shrimp and Chorizo Tostada features a delicious and great way to use both Cacique Pork Chorizo and its rendered fat, which is something Americans often discard after cooking the stuff. However, cooking shrimp in rendered chorizo fat is a common technique in Mexican households, and pork chorizo and shrimp is such a classic Mexican combination! Even just the smell and sound of sizzling chorizo reminds me of home, because that was something my Abuela always made on the weekends when I was a kid.
Finally, the third variation is a Summer Squash with Rajas, Roasted Corn, Crema Mexicana and Queso Fresco Tostada. This one’s a nod to the importance of using produce that is in season. I love utilizing fresh vegetables that are only in season during certain times of the year when they taste the best. Plus, the Cacique Crema Mexicana and Queso Fresco here help to give this tostada richness, which balances out the sweetness of the corn.
Another fun fact: nachos are not a part of traditional Mexican cuisine – but they do come from Mexico. They were actually first created for American wives of U.S. soldiers during WWII. A man named Ignacio was the Maître D’ at a restaurant in the Mexican town of Piedras Negras, and when a bunch of American women arrived for lunch, he could not find the cook. So, he improvised. He ran into the kitchen, where he found tortilla chips, cheese and jalapeño peppers, and that’s what he served them. They loved it and asked what it was called. In reply, he just said his nickname, “Nacho.” If, instead of nachos, you’re looking for something similar from traditional Mexican cuisine, try out chilaquiles. They’re a great way to scratch the itch for the crunch, creaminess and deliciousness of nachos.
From me – and the whole Cacique family – have a great Cinco de Mayo!