"¡Viva México!" Celebrate Mexican Independence Day in Style

Mexican Independence Day recipe and cocktail.

Mexican Independence Day, September 16, is a major celebration in Mexico, and as regards actual historical importance, eclipses the better-known (in the U.S.) Cinco de Mayo holiday.

The day was immortalized in the late hours of September 15, 1810, when Father Hidalgo, a Catholic priest in the town of Dolores, Guanajuato, led his people in rebellion against Spanish rule. It was not until 1821, however, that Mexico acquired its independence from Spain. His battle cry of "¡Viva México!" and "¡Viva la independencia!" is a hallmark of the celebration.

In Mexico City, Mexican Independence Day is an elaborate affair. At 11:00 p.m. in the zócalo (main square) the crowd goes silent as the current Mexican president rings the historic liberty bell that Father Hidalgo rang to rouse the people. Next, the president shouts the Grito de Dolores ("¡Viva México!") and the crowd roars the words back at him. Fiestas celebrating independence take place that night and the next day throughout Mexico. The air is filled with confetti and streamers. The 16th is full of music, mariachis, bullfights, rodeos, parades, fireworks and plenty of dancing, food and drink.

Celebrate your own day at home with one of these authentic recipes from Enrique Olvera, Chef of Pujol Restaurant in Mexico City. Olvera was the first Mexican citizen to graduate with honors from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and opened Pujol in 2000. Today, the eatery's traditional Mexican dishes with innovative touches attract food lovers from Mexico City and beyond.


Rack of Lamb with Chocolate Crust, Black Beans and Molé Sauce

2 racks of lamb (preferably Frenched* with 8 chops per rack)
1 cup black beans
1/2 Spanish onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 plantain, ripened
2 1/4 cups water (for plantain and molé)
1/2 cup molé paste**
1/2 cup Mexican chocolate, grated
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup drawn butter or vegetable oil
2 plum tomatoes, seeded, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup green beans
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*When the meat at the tips is cut away to expose the bones.
**Molé can be purchased at specialty grocery stores and Latin food markets.

To make the lamb:
Clean and portion rack of lamb. Place black beans in pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add onion and garlic, cooking until beans are soft. Once finished, remove from heat. Keep beans inside liquid.

Boil 2 cups of water; peel plantain and place in pot with boiling water. Remove from heat until plantain is soft and blend plantain with water until smooth consistency is acquired.

Combine molé paste with 4 tablespoons of water.

Combine Mexican chocolate and breadcrumbs in small bowl. Season lamb with salt, pepper and chocolate/ breadcrumb mixture.

Drain black beans. Sauté green beans in olive oil. When cooked, add tomato, cooked black beans and cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté lamb chops in drawn butter or vegetable oil for 3-4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.

To serve:
Place bean combination in center of serving dish and top with lamb chops. Dollop with molé sauce and a drop of plantain purée. Serves 4.

El D.F. Mojito

1 ounce chilled Tequila Don Julio Blanco*
2 ounces lime pulp
6 hierbabuena leaves (may substitute mint)
1 teaspoon extra fine sugar
5 ice cubes
1/2 ounce seltzer water
1 ounce lemon-lime soda
*Note: Recipe best served when Tequila Blanco Don Julio is left overnight in freezer.

Mix Tequila, lime pulp, hierbabuena leaves, sugar and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well. Pour contents from shaker into an old-fashioned glass. Finish with a dash of seltzer and lemon-lime soda.

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