Monday, April 30, 2007

Cinco de Mayo? Yo tengo tinga!

Coming up this weekend is Cinco de Mayo, that popular holiday where much Mexican food is washed down with cerveza and tequila. But even though the day commemorates a Mexican victory, it has become more of a North-of-the-border fiesta with not as much attention paid to it in its native land.

Cinco de Mayo is often mistaken as Mexican Independence Day but that happens later in the calendar on September 16. Instead, this event marks the Mexicans’ incredible triumph (lead by the Texas-born Commanding General Ignacio Seguin Zaragoza) over the French in The Battle of Puebla (where the Mexicans were outnumbered almost two to one) on, of course, May 5, 1862. And while the French continued their attempt to take over Mexico for a few more years, this accomplishment not only boosted the Mexicans’ morale but was also a key factor in thwarting Napoleon III’s attempt to aid the Confederate states in the American Civil War.

In the early 1900’s, Mexican immigrants to the United States brought the celebration with them and in the 1960’s it grew in popularity as a day to honor ethnic pride. And for good reason as the day has long symbolized the strength of the Mexican spirit. But today, much of that original sentiment is lost behind the marketing. Sadly, it’s been demoted to just an excuse to sell more beer, tequila and tortilla chips. And you don’t even have to be of Mexican descent to join in the hype. In my neighborhood, the Irish pubs are also touting the day with signs and specials, and I noticed that even a French restaurant is having a Cinco de Mayo celebration. (Clearly, they either have an excellent sense of humor or have no idea what the day really means.)

You’ll hear of people traveling to, say, San Antonio for Cinco de Mayo festivities, but rarely do you hear of anyone going to Mexico to celebrate the day. Why is this? Probably because in most of the country, they’re about as excited about Cinco de Mayo as we are about President’s Day. It’s not even a federal holiday there. My friends in Mexico City shrug at the mention of it; it’s just no big deal. But while most of Mexico takes little notice of Cinco de Mayo, at least the people in Puebla put on a proper celebration with people dancing and eating and drinking in the streets. And for good reason, the battle was, after all, fought and won in their state.

So considering the holiday’s origin, if you’re having a Cinco de Mayo celebration why not serve a Pueblan dish? Two hours south of Mexico City, Puebla is a place teeming with colorful markets, exquisite architecture and fabulous food, a cuisine so wonderful that it’s been championed as the gastronomic capital of Mexico. Unfortunately, I haven’t traveled there yet, but I have had the pleasure of sampling some traditional Pueblan dishes. There’s mole poblano, the rich and complex sauce made of chiles, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate. Or cemitas—the Pueblan’s version of a torta—a mountain of meat, avocado, cheese and chiles all sandwiched between a sweet, sesame-seed bun. But one of my favorite Pueblan delights is tinga, a lively, tangy stew made up of pork, chorizo, tomatoes and chipotles.

Tinga is a perfect party dish because it can feed many and be made a day or so ahead of time. Traditionally it’s served on crisp tostadas but it can also be wrapped in warm tortillas, piled on tortilla chips, or even eaten with a spoon out of a bowl. Some may make it with chicken or veal, but my favorite style is tinga de puerco. The tender, toothsome strings of pork coupled with the piquant and vinegary chorizo, bright tomatoes and smoky chipotles makes for a complex, hearty dish. And when you add some cotija (that crumbly Mexican white cheese), cilantro, avocado and a squirt of lime, you've not only created a delectable dish, but you've also paid homage to the colors of the Mexican flag.

So whether or not you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, if you like the marriage of succulent meat with spicy chipotles, you should try tinga. I brine the pork, so there is some waiting involved, but be patient, actual cooking time is short and it’s a snap to put the dish together. If you don’t eat meat, no worries, the simple chipotle sauce can also be used with potatoes, beans, tofu or TVP. And while I never need an excuse to eat Mexican food, I do think that serving this spirited, soulful Pueblan treat on Cinco de Mayo seems like a proper way to honor the day.

Tinga
Ingredients:
1 pound of pork shoulder or tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound of Mexican chorizo (do not use Spanish chorizo. It’s a completely different meat. )
1 bay leaf
1 large onion
5 cloves of garlic
3 chipotle peppers in adobo
1 cup of peeled ripe Roma tomatoes (about 4). You can use canned ones if tomatoes aren’t in season
1/2 teaspoon of Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 cup of cilantro
Black pepper
Salt
1 avocado thinly sliced
Cortija cheese
1 lime cut into wedges

Method:
First you want to brine your pork for at least four hours. Put the pork in a bowl and cover with six cups of water. Add six tablespoons of salt, three tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of black pepper and a clove of garlic, minced. Cover with a plate to keep the meat underwater, and refrigerate for four hours, brining it up to eight hours. (Do not over-brine!). After you’re done brining the meat, rinse the meat. pat it dry and throw out the brine water.
Place brined pork in a large pot with half the onion (uncut), the bay leaf, a clove of garlic and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes until tender.
Take out cooked pork (save the cooking water) and when cool shred it. Set it aside.
Dice the other half of the onion and mince the three remaining garlic cloves.
Cook the chorizo out of its casing in a dry skillet until brown, about eight minutes. Carefully tilting the skillet, drain the oil to one side and then remove the chorizo.
Puree the tomatoes in a blender with the three minced garlic cloves and chipotle peppers with adobo.
Transfer the chorizo oil to a pot, and then cook the onions in the oil on medium for about five minutes or until soft and then add the tomato-chipotle puree, Mexican oregano and thyme. Cook for five minutes on medium, and then add the shredded pork, chorizo, 1/4 cup of cilantro and one cup of the pork cooking water (you should freeze the leftover pork cooking water because it will make a good stock for cooking beans). Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. It should be thick. If it’s too liquidy, just cook uncovered for a few minutes. Add salt to taste.

Serve on fresh tostadas, either store bought or made from corn tortillas. To make tostadas, heat an inch of oil in a skillet and fry whole tortillas on each side a couple of minutes until crisp. Place a hearty spoonful of tinga on the crisp tostada and then sprinkle on top cotija cheese (if not available, you can substitute Monterrey jack or sour cream) and the remaining cilantro. Serve with sliced avocado and lime wedges. This recipe will yield about 10 to 12 tostadas.

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58 comments:

Jerry Allison said...

Well, I think I figured out what I'm making for Cinco de Mayo. Or maybe I'll visit Las Manitas. But a taco is going to be included in one of my meals.
Biscuits came out fantastically. I just wish my oven didn't burn the bottoms. Oh well.
:)

Lydia said...

Great recipe -- I'm going to try it with chicken. While the meaning of Cinco de Mayo has gotten lost a bit, it's still an excuse to sample the wonderful cuisine of Puebla. And to down it all with a cold cerveza!

christine (myplateoryours) said...

Learnin' something all the time! Thanks! Cracks me up about the French restaurant.

Sean said...

Hellsya! This sounds totally to die for. And what a lovely tribute to an otherwise almost insignificant day. :-)

Olivia said...

Well, no mention of Cinco de Mayo here in Europe of course :P

But I am wondering if I use Thai food to make up for the lack of Mexican. Cilantro, chillis....Nah, they don't compare, I just love them both. Mexican food also makes sublime use of cumin.

Don't let me forget that I need to try that funky little Tex Mex restaurant before a few weeks are out.

Garrett said...

I love that picture of you squeezing the lime, shibby and astounding work there.
Dunno if I will be able to make this dish this weekend (busy weekend) but maybe the chipotle cupcakes may make an appearence at work.
(or at least seven layer dip)

I'm def. setting this recipe aside for a coming chillaxing weekend.

Lizzy said...

I was going to make a plain old taco salad for my Cinco de Mayo celebration, but I think i just found a new main dish! Gracias!

Homesick Texan said...

Jerry--Glad to hear the biscuits came out fantastically! Enjoy the tinga!

Lydia--It's also great with chicken. And yes, a cold cerveza is a must!

Christine--Yes! The French restaurant's celebration cracks me up, too!

Sean--Oh it is, espcially if you love chipotles!

Olivia--When I first moved to NYC, cheap and tasty Indian food was in abundance so I used that as my substitute for Tex-Mex. Not quite the same, but sort of close, at least in spice.

Garrett--Thanks! And chipotle cupcakes are a fine, fine thing to eat as well!

Lizzy--De nada! Buen provecho!

gilly said...

Hi Lisa! Thank you for the informative post... I'm afraid my knowledge of Cinco de Mayo is rather poor - being from the great white north and all. Perhaps some day I'll make it south of two borders and try some of what Mexico has to offer - but until then, I'll definately be enjoying your Tinga!

Anonymous said...

Hi Texan -- I LOVE your stories and recipes -- so inspiring! And guess what I'm making this wekend?! I do have a silly question, tho -- when you brine the pork, do you cube it before brining or brine as a whole piece? Want to make sure I don't over-brine. Thanks very much!

Cat said...

A Texas friend in Korea just sent me your link. As an ex-pat who's been in Africa for the past year and a half, your site had me drooling in no time. I think I'm starting to look forward to going home, if nothing else but for the food!
www.travelingcat.com.

Homesick Texan said...

Gilly--Yep, I reckon it's not a big deal in Canada, but hopefully you make it to Mexico someday, the food is out of this world! Enjoy the tinga!

Anon--Thank you! When I brine the pork, I would chop it up beforehand because it's not only easier to work with before it's been brined, but also more surface area will be penetrated.

Cat--Oooo! Africa! How exciting! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. Thanks for stopping by!

wheresmymind said...

I'll be in AZ this weekend, does that count? ;)

Texana said...

Today I stumbled upon your blog, and was at once intrigued and homesick. Having lived my whole life in Texas or within a couple hour's drive of it, I am now an East Coast resident. The first spring in 38 years I have not enjoyed bluebonnets up close and personal! Needless to say, "Mexican food" and "Texas BBQ" are non-existent here. Thank you for the Ninfa's green salsa recipe and the other yummy inspirations! Whole Foods, here I come!

Olivia said...

I've befriended some Aussies and am holding out hope for a BBQ sometime this summer...

Brilynn said...

I think I need to make my own cinqo de mayo festivities this year by making some delicious mexican food like what you've got here! Muy bien!

Homesick Texan said...

Wheresmymind--AZ's a border state so sure, it counts!

Texana--Welcome to the East Coast--it's not so bad. Even though they're no bluebonnets, there are lilacs which are pretty stunning. Enjoy the Ninfa's green sauce!

Olivia--That sounds like a good plan--Aussies sure do love their meat!

Brilynn--You should--any reason to eat Mexican food is good with me!

eonyc said...

It's a lot like the big whoop we Micks make over St. Patty's day..which is just another day in old Ireland! Who cares..we're fun!
I'm a new reader--born in TX (Temple!) but raised in Yankee-land, aka MA. Moved to TX in 2000 for more than a year. Every time I go back I eat Tex-Mex for as many meals as possible!! I have found a few holes in the wall in Sunset Park & Red Hook (Brooklyn) which are pretty damn tasty..as long as your health department standards aren't too stringent. ;)
And I can't WAIT to try your biscuit recipe..this weekend I hope!

William Conway said...

As a Texan trapped in a Georgia zip code, I sometimes get a little bummed when my buds whoop up "Drinko-de-Mayo". It's a shame, because I've taken a real liking to "real" Mexican food.

Your tinga looks delish! Thanks for the inspiration...I may have to whip up something similar this weekend.

Terry B said...

A great post, Lisa, and timely for me. We've just moved into a predominantly Mexican neighborhood in Chicago--it's nice to have some more background on the holiday.

The brief French control had some lasting effects on Mexican cuisine, by the way--specifically the baking. France brought their own baking ingredients and techniques with them when they came to Mexico. As a result, many Mexican bakeries sell croissants, baguettes and various French pastries alongside more traditional Mexican baked goods.

Kate said...

ok...you had me at that first picture

This looks delish!

Lisa said...

I was thinking of doing something for Cinco de Mayo, and I have a little pork shoulder in the freezer....hmmm...that looks and sounds so very good.

Julie said...

Great batch of pictures. I particularly like that one of the lime.

I've never had tinga (and only know of its existence because I've seen recipes for it in Rick Bayless's cookbooks) but it certainly looks and sounds delicious.

I'm always reading about things on your blog that I know my husband would love. This is another one to add to the list.

Homesick Texan said...

eonyc--Welcome! And yes, I've heard people compare Cinco de Mayo to St. Patrick's Day in that same way--I reckon you're right, Americans just like to have fun! Enjoy the biscuits!

William--Thank you and you're welcome! And Georgia's not so bad...you still have Blue Bell at least!

Terry--I've read about the French's influence on Mexican cuisine--there's also some debate over which came first, the molinillo or the moulinet. And we probably wouldn't have tortas if it wasn't for the French.

Kate--Thank you!

Lisa--It's perfect with pork shoulder!

Julie--Thanks! I'm pleased to help keep your husband well fed!

Mike said...

....we started off the Cinco de Mayo "four day weekend" at Mi Cocina last night...more guacamole than you can shake an avocado at...more queso than even Mama Ninfa has seen in at least two months ( is shee still with us ??) ....a couple of Tecates, cheese and onion enchiladas...rice, refried beans...MmmmmMmmmm

phoenikia said...

Nice post! I'm planning to use your recipe for my Cinco de Mayo fiesta up here in Toronto.

Homesick Texan said...

Hi Mike, sounds like a great party! Unfortunately, however, Mama Ninfa is now playing hostess at that big Tex-Mex joint in the sky.

Phoenikia--I was wondering if Canadians celebrated Cinco de Mayo--enjoy!

s'kat said...

I luuuurve me some tinga! Love the addition of avocado.

Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Your blog is dangerous for me - I'm living in Italy and I'm probably even more homesick than you for TexMex (went to univ in Texas).

Hopefully I'll be able to replicate a few of these here!

Cigarlady said...

In San Diego we got Cinco de Mayo off as a holiday. This looks good. The only thing that puzzles me is why brine a meat that you are going to cook in liquid anyway. I thought brining was to give extra moisture to meat when it is dry cooked (roasting, grilling, sauting). Why not add some salt/sugar to the water you cook it in? I'm only asking, because it would save you a lengthy step. I usually don't brine because the brines I tried made the meat too salty for me and, if anything I tend to under cook meat so, drying out isn't a problem. Great looking recipe.

Cindy said...

Ahh Cinco de mayo, its kind of funny border states get into it but others are like cinco de who? All around a good time and the perfect excuse to drink and eat tacos :)

Texas Espresso said...

Happy Cinco di Mayo! from a fellow blogger from Texas =)

Steamy Kitchen said...

Your photos are amazing! I haven't had this dish before...I'll have to scout out the Mexican restaurants here...

Ed Tep said...

I stumbled across your blog via your comment over at Moveable Feast. Your tinga recipe sounds delicious. And your post about your recent trip back truly made me homesick, too. I totally remember all those Asian strip malls on Bellaire Blvd.

Homesick Texan said...

S'Kat--Thanks, I love the addition of tomatillos in your recipe!

Ms Adventures--I'm sure you'll be able to recreate some of the dishes in Italy. Of course, Italy is no slouch when it comes to good food either!

Cigarlady--I reckon I brine it because I'm on a brining binge right now. That said, you raise a good point. I'm sure you don't have to brine it since you are cooking it in liquid.

Cindy--Yep, it's a perfect excuse for tacos!

Texas Espresso--Happy Cinco de Mayo to you too!

Steamy Kitchen---Thanks! If you like the flavors of cilantro and chipotle, you'll like this dish.

Ed Tep--Thanks! Aren't those Asian strip malls amazing? They seem to go on forever!

rob said...

The commercialization of, well, everything, is part of the reality of the world in which we live, I guess. Tinga looks inspired, however, though I'd never heard of it before this post. Braised pork is one of those things that just always seems to turn out delicious, doubly so when mixed with chipotle, herbs, lime, and sugar. To be honest, I always consider these occasions opportunities to eat well, since most feasts/holidays usually seem to be associated with a particularly tasty dish. Eating well is always the best revenge.

Sean said...

I had tostadas de tinga at Primavera at the farmer's market this morning. You made me do it. And it was delicioso!

Cigarlady said...

Just finished eating tinga tacos, from your recipe. Hubby and I both think they're great and he is picky about his tacos. Too many TJ taco trucks. I also love your pics.

Thanks

Amanda said...

No idea how I ended up on your blog, but now I am really homesick.

I lived in Las Cruces, NM until late 2004, and now I live in northern England, where the Mexican options are extremely limited at best!

This tinga recipe sounds really nice, but sadly, it's a lot easier for me to get Spanish chorizo than Mexican! What's the essential difference? I've tried my hand at re-creating the border style for my English friends, but somehow it doesn't quite taste right. Short of hauling them all to Chope's in Mesilla, what do I do?

Patrick said...

Lisa,

Your blog is been read as far away as London England. After living in Texas (Brenham and Houston) for over 15 years. I really enjoyed your photo of the field of bluebonnets, had to be taken near Brenham.I miss Tex-Mex cooking. There is a difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking. I even shipped a case of BOB's hot Texas crisps over here by DHL, but I soon gave up on that idea after being hammered by import duty. After many years of looking I found this great Tex-Mex restaurant in London called Cafe El Paso. I went there last night to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. As you say just anoher excuse to drink beer, tequila, margaritas (top shelf only) and eat tortilla chips and Fajitas and of course refried beans. You mention that even the Irish bars are Mexican for the day, well on St Patrick's day in USA every bar is Irish for the day, its just good marketing.

8:11 AM

Mike said...

Thanks for the recipe! It was my favorite dish at our get-together yesterday, and easy and enjoyable to make.

Chicken Fried Gourmet said...

Lisa this looks amazing. We had a "little" Cinco De Mayo Party I had wanted to make this but went with stuff a little easier. This is definitely a keeper recipe.

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

We celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the South because helped get the yankees out of our backyards. They were sent to mexico with their ammunition and soldiers.

Any reason for margaritas!

Homesick Texan said...

Rob--Fie on commericialization, but I agree, braised pork is one of the most succulent dishes ever. And heck yeah, if the occasion is an excuse for good food, I'm happy!

Sean--Excellent! When I come out to the Bay Area, Primavera is on my list of places to try. I'm honored to be an inspiration!

Cigarlady--No, thank you! And I'm glad y'all enjoyed it!

Amanda--Welcome! The difference, I believe, is that Spanish chorizo is generally dry where Mexican is wet. I've been playing around with homemade Mexican chorizo and I hope to post on it soon. In the meantime, you could experiment with Spanish chorizo or you could just double the pork. It will still taste good without the chorizo, I reckon.

Patrick--Hello from across the pond! And yes, the photo was taken outside of Brenham. How'd you guess? And you're right on the money--Tex-Mex is definitely not Mexican food--it's a unique cuisine all to itself! What did you think of Cafe El Paso? I have other London-based readers who are also in search of decent Tex-Mex over there and I'm sure they'd be interested in your opinion.

Mike--Wonderful news! I'm glad y'all enjoyed it!

Chicken Fried Gourmet--It's good stuff, I bet you'll like it. And I'd love, love, LOVE to see one of your creative interpretations of it!

Sandi--Ha! You do have a point!

shel said...

Hola! I made your Tinga this weekend and it was phemomenal! I wouldn't skip the brining -- it made the pork even more flavorful and tender than had it just been cooked outright. Everyone (kids & adults alike) loved it -- it travelled around this weekend to different parties and was a complete hit. Recipe's absolutely a keeper and a "passer-arounder!"

Homesick Texan said...

Shel--Thanks for the feedback, I'm glad y'all enjoyed it and it was a hit with both the kids and the adults!

christine said...

I've celebrated Cinco de Mayo twice in my life only I think. Once in SF and another time in London, but it was really , like you say, an excuse to guzzle cervezas and mexican food. I appreciate the little piece of history and the education on tinga - which I'd never heard of before! :)

Anonymous said...

I made this this past Saturday for some friends. What a hit! My friend put down six soft tacos of this stuff, and a side bowl of borracho beans. He was so full afterwards he couldn't function. He sat down on the couch, took off his belt and fell asleep within about 5 minutes. His wife was mortified, but, hey....what a food compliment: 'too full to function.

Homesick Texan said...

Christine--You're welcome. And good to hear they celebrate it in London!

Anon--Well that's high praise! I'm glad y'all liked it!

Backyard Chef said...

Wow! That sounds and looks AMAZING. I can't keep looking at all these pictures and think that I'm going to lose weight...dang!

Homesick Texan said...

Backyard Chef--Ah, the bane of being a food blogger--extra pounds! I've started jogging to offset the consumption. But this is actually a healthy not too fattening dish. Give it a try!

MEXICA said...

Mmmmmm,frijoles refritos!!!, tu receta es casi como la de mi Abuelita, pero ella guardaba el caldo de los frijoles y lo comiamos con cebolla y chiles serranos picados .... TambiƩn riquisimos. Sorry i'm not a good english speaker/literate

neo said...

Happy Cinco De Mayo 2008 !!

ames1506 said...

Thanks so much for this recipe - I'm in the UK and only know of one decent Mexican restaurant in London. After having chicken tinga there I'd been searching around for a pork based recipe and found your website. I made this tonight and it was a great success - despite only being able to get hold of a chipotle marinade and not chipotle peppers in adobo. Thanks so much! Look forward to trying more recipes from your blog!

Anonymous said...

I made your tinga today and WOW! the flavor was great...awesome..unbelievable. I had to leave off of the Chorizo...those pesky calories and all. However, I don't think the recipe suffered at all. All in all, it was a sucess and I look forward to cooking more recipes from your blog-- Thanks from Judy in the Big D.

Einer2 said...

Yum! I made this yesterday and can't wait to share with others. I had a dish made with chicken and chorizo in a creamy sauce from a local resturant, but this one was definitely better and worth the effort. My only question is the sugar component. I read and re-read and didn't see the addition, tasted at the end to see if the acid balance was too high and it seemed fine to me- so omitted. Can't imagine it being better!!

Emily said...

Finally made this recipe after it had been sitting in my to-try file for about a year - it was absolutely delicious! And for what its worth, I didn't have time to brine the pork, and I pressure cooked (7 minutes at high pressure, than natural release) the pork in two cups of water rather than braising it, and the dish still turned out great. Thank you!

Emily said...

I owe you a huge thank you for this recipe! I hosted a couple's wedding shower this past Saturday (on Cinco de Mayo!) and made this, your Chipotle Chicken Tacos, and your Salsa Verde. Everything was a huge hit and we had a fantastic party. And I live in deep South Texas, where people know their Mexican food and don't put up with imposters. I cooked both recipes the night before through the point of shredding the meat and adding the other ingredients, and finished them the next day in slow cookers to meld flavors and keep things warm on the taco bar. It was a great way to host a party, so thanks so much for running this blog!

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