I guess I’m not surprised that the blogosphere has exploded with Cinco de Mayo recipes and party ideas. This is one psudo-holiday that North Americans have embraced with gusto…er, I mean entusiasmo. Devoid of religious trappings or forced familial obligations, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to let loose with friends, indulge in platter after platter of nachos, enchiladas and tacos, and drink a few too many margaritas — be they strawberry, mango, coconut, guava, or some other tropical but none-too-authentic flavor.
But Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States are unlike those in Mexico. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any real celebrations in Mexico at all. The military defeat of the French army by Mexican troops on May 5th, 1862, in the city of Puebla was indeed historically important to the the Pueblans, but it is not recognized throughout Mexico the way it is north of the border.
I recently listened to an NPR news story that encapsulated my feelings about the holiday. Entitled “Cinco De Mayo: Whose Holiday Is It, Anyway,” the story made the case that Cinco De Mayo celebrations in the United States are really Mexican-American celebrations…a way of recognizing Mexican cultural heritage in a uniquely Mexican-American way. And if Cinco de Mayo is a day to recognize the contributions and influences of the Mexican diaspora on the fabric of American culture, have I got a recipe for you.
Migas are a Tex-Mex dish influenced less by traditional Mexican cooking than by Spanish and Portuguese dishes. In those countries migas are, at their most basic, a mixture of bread and eggs flavored with a variety of savory ingredients. But in the southwestern United States, where the influences of Mexican cooking are most widely felt, migas are a popular breakfast or brunch dish made with leftover corn tortillas, eggs, onions, tomatoes, and a variety of other things that can include bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, hot sauce and cheese.
Migas are like loaded scrambled eggs, Mexican-American style, and are the perfect brunch dish. Especially welcome the morning after those afore-mentioned margaritas, migas have a way of filling your belly and lifting your mood. But you don’t have to be in recovery mode to enjoy them. Though not the prettiest of dishes, migas are so simple even a child could make them. To prove that point, we got our Stout Sprouts into the kitchen to lend a hand. While Daughter 1 sliced tortillas and cracked eggs, Daughter 2 fetched the tomatoes, helped wash cilantro and beat the eggs. I chopped the onion, tomatoes, and roasted red peppers and was on burner duty, frying the tortilla strips and cooking the migas.
With all those hands pitching in, breakfast was ready in no time. And to that I say, “olé,” and offer sincere thanks to those generations of people whose native ingredients and dishes have so wonderfully influenced the meals we have today. Happy Cinco de Mayo, wherever — and in whatever country — you find yourself!
Migas: Tex-Mex Scrambled Eggs and Corn Tortillas
3 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/4 of a large onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup diced red pepper (we used roasted red peppers, but you could use fresh if you prefer)
1/4 cup diced tomato
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
6 whole eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (or combination)
Hot sauce, pickled jalapeños, lime wedges, diced cilantro, additional shredded cheese, salsa, diced avocado, and/or sour cream, for serving
Begin by heating about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep-sided sauce pan over medium-high heat. Test how hot the oil is by putting in one tortilla strip. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough. If it doesn’t sizzle, or sinks, oil is not hot enough. Fry the tortilla strips in three batches to a golden brown, taking care not to crowd the pan and monitoring the heat so the strips don’t over-brown. When finished, remove each batch of fried tortilla strips with a spider onto a plate lined with a paper towel and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.
Over medium-high heat, heat two teaspoons vegetable oil in a large sauté pan (preferably non-stick, and it’s OK to use some of the oil leftover from frying the tortilla strips – just be careful because it will still be hot). Add the onion, red pepper, tomato, and a pinch of salt to the pan and sauté until the vegetables are soft — between 5 and 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté another 2 – 3 minutes to meld flavors.
Whisk the eggs in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Fold the fried tortilla strips into the onion/pepper/tomato mixture. Add the beaten eggs to the sauté pan, folding occasionally to cook them evenly. While the eggs are still wet, fold in the shredded cheese. Continue to cook until the eggs are set and no longer runny.
Serve the migas with any (or all!) of the following condiments: hot sauce, pickled jalapeño slices, lime wedges, diced cilantro, diced avocado, additional shredded cheese, or sour cream.
Refried beans or black beans are a traditional southwestern side served with migas, and you may want to make a batch to go with your eggs. Yum.
Kid rating: three-and-a-half stars. This was a great meal in which to involve the kids. Our Stout Sprouts really got into helping assemble all the ingredients and got to learn a little bit about Mexican-American cooking in the process. Daughter 1, who is a big corn tortilla fan, liked her migas with a little extra cheese and some ketchup on the side. Daughter 2, who has already professed a dislike of bell peppers, only ate about a quarter of the serving I put on her plate. Enough to make me happy, but it wasn’t her idea of a fiesta. Maybe next time I’ll change things up for her and go easy on the peppers and onions for her.
Parent rating: four stars. Neither my husband nor I were in need of the medicinal qualities of migas but enjoyed them just the same. We had corn tortillas on hand already (pork tacos the night before!), so this dish was a bit of a no-brainer. We served it with chicken breakfast sausages and bacon, but some refried beans would have been wonderful too. Migas makes great use of ingredients you probably have on hand already — with the possible exception of the tortillas — and comes together quickly. Great for breakfast, brunch or as a simple yet satisfying dinner.