After the outcome of the Cinco de Mayo battle in Puebla, the French forces retreated and needed several months to regroup, but were eventually victorious in the same battlefield, almost exactly a year later, in the Second Battle of Puebla on 17 May 1863. As predicted, the French army shortly took Mexico City. When the capital fell, Mexican president Juárez’s government was forced into exile in the remote Northern town of Paso del Norte, and later, in the city of Chihuahua. With the backing of France, the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian became Emperor of Mexico from 1864 to 1867. Even though Mexico was under French rule for three years, Mexicans were not disheartened and kept fighting the occupation, and Juárez was able to mostly preserve his government in exile and fight the Empire from the North.
At the end of the U.S. Civil War, “… General Phil Sheridan took 100,000 Union soldiers to the Mexican border as a show of force against Maximilian and France, and the U.S. also provided modern weapons and military equipment, including medical equipment” Schiller Institute. Along the US-Mexican border, Cinco de Mayo celebrations were held in California and other southwestern states, joined by veterans of both the Mexican and Union armies. Napoleon III was plagued by health issues and conflict with Prussia, and now lacked support from Great Britain. Once the American Civil War was over, all hope for control over the Americas was gone, and he abandoned Maximilian; Juárez and the liberal Mexican forces finally regained control of the government in 1867.
(Next post – Fifth Stop: Chihuahua)
My fourth culinary stop is the American Southern States, with an origin story in a border town on the Mexican side. Piedras Negras, Coahuila, just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, is the place where Nachos were invented, originally named “Nacho’s Special” by chef Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya. Chef Nacho’s recipe was simply a layer of fried tortilla triangles covered with melted cheddar cheese and sprinkled with chopped Jalapeños. The snack quickly became popular across the border, in Texas and other Southern American states, and more ingredients and toppings were added on the way. I am preparing the original recipe, but including the extra toppings in a layered dip as a side for these Nachos, so each person may add some to their portion according to their taste. Coincidentally, chef Anaya and general Zaragoza shared their first name, Ignacio, which means they also shared the nickname “Nacho”, making the dish a very appropriate homage to the Battle of Puebla as an item on my themed menu. I also added some toppings of my own, for an extra festive dish, with elements from both sides of the border, just like the early celebrations of Cinco de Mayo.
Festive “Nacho’s Special” with Five Layer Dip
1 can refried pinto beans
1 1/2 batches guacamole, simple recipe click here
1 bunch green onions, sliced thinly
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cooked salsa Mexicana (bottled or click here for recipe)
Restaurant style tortilla chips (triangles)
1/2 lb (450 g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Jalapeño peppers, stem and seeds removed, and chopped finely
1 tsp olive or other vegetable oil
1 tsp each cumin, chili powder and paprika
1 lb (450 g) extra-lean ground beef
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded lettuce, chopped onions and chopped tomatoes
I prepared the dip in a glass bowl with straight walls, and I reduced the layers to five from the popular seven layers, since the cheese and jalapeños will go directly on the tortilla chips. I started by spreading the refried beans to cover the bottom, wiping around the bowl walls with a paper towel, then added the layer of guacamole, wiping again, to achieve a smooth edge from one layer to the next:
I arranged the green part of the onions on top of the guacamole, then the white circles vertically against the wall of the bowl. Sour cream was the next layer, and finally topped with the bright red salsa:
The original Nacho’s Special was just a simple platter of tortilla chips, with melted Cheddar cheese and chopped jalapeño peppers on top. I used red and white tortilla chips for contrast (Old Dutch™ is a Canadian brand that uses natural beet colour for the red chips); after sprinkling cheese and peppers on top, I microwaved the platter in high for 45 seconds:
Served together, they become a delicious snack or appetizer:
To make the Festive variation, as shown at the top of this post, I had prepared a topping of ground beef and some fresh veggies. First, I warmed up one teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat, then added cumin, paprika and chili powder and stir them in the pan for about 30 seconds. I added extra lean ground beef, breaking it into small pieces, and kept cooking until no longer pink:
The plate with “Nacho’s Special” and a side of Five Layer Dip was decorated with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and onions, and finished with a generous sprinkle of the seasoned ground beef. The goal was to put together a festive green/white/red colour scheme, just like the Mexican flag: