As Wikipedia tells us:
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is a holiday held on May 5 that commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. It is celebrated primarily in the state of Puebla and in the United States. While Cinco de Mayo sees limited significance in Mexico itself, the date is observed nationwide mostly in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. “Cinco de Mayo is not a Mexican holiday—it is an American Civil War holiday, created spontaneously by Mexicans and Latinos living in California who supported the fragile cause of defending freedom and democracy during the first years of that bloody war between the states.” Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.
You can find more background on Cinco de Mayo at this website.
We enjoy celebrating Cinco de Mayo in our house. I believe one should never pass up a reason to celebrate, and Cinco de Mayo is a great excuse for eating delicious TexMex (although TexMex is so delicious and versatile, it makes any occasion special 😉 ). It’s also a good reason for me to make up some reduced-fat queso (cheese dip): In a medium-sized saucepan, mix together 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (UNDRAINED) with some reduced-fat (2%) Velveeta (or reduced-fat American or reduced-fat cheddar) and an assortment of other cheeses (you want to end up with a bit over a pound of cheese). Stir over medium heat until melted and smooth. Muy Bueno 🙂
Whenever Cinco de Mayo comes around, I view it as an excellent excuse to change my whole latitude 😉 and well and truly usher in Spring by splurging on some Corona Light (with lime, of course!) or maybe a Carb-Conscious (no-sugar-added) frozen lime margarita.
For Cinco de Mayo, I often like to make something that I don’t usually make — such as my own salsa, flour tortillas, charro beans (absolutely delicious!) — or try some kind of new recipe. It was through trying a new recipe that I discovered that hubby loves, loves, LOVES chimichangas. 🙂
Chimichangas are essentially a burrito (or soft taco) that’s been deep-fried. Yes, I said “fried” — but as long as you get your oil hot enough, deep-frying isn’t as unhealthy as many might think at first blush, because the food will sear and seal on the outside, thereby not absorbing an exorbitant amount of oil. They aren’t really a traditional Mexican dish, but they are YUMMY!
My chimichangas were inspired from a simple recipe at the Kraft foods website. We like things spicy, so I season the filling with taco seasoning or as I otherwise would for tacos. And, of course, me being me, I lighten this dish up and remove some of the guilt by using lean (93/7 or greater) ground beef or ground turkey (93/7). Chipotle turkey sausage also makes for a tasty filling that needs little or no additional seasoning. You can add in some refried beans if you like — or have refried beans or bean dip as a side — and of course, I use reduced-fat cheese. I also use reduced-fat sour cream (or fat-free Greek yogurt) to dress the chimichangas. Seasoned ground chicken would also work. And, of course, to make it vegetarian, use seasoned refried beans and/or whatever vegetarian taco-seasoned meat substitute — such as “SoyRizo” — you would use for tacos or burritos.
While I’ve never tried this method with chimichangas, you may be able to crisp (“oven fry”) them in the oven by lightly spraying the chimichangas with cooking spray (or misting with olive or canola oil) and baking in the oven at a high temperature (probably 400F to 425F) for 15 to 20 minutes, turning halfway through to ensure crisping. I’ve done this with homemade egg rolls successfully. It’s not the same crispiness as deep-frying, of course, but it would give them some crispness.
As a general rule, I recommend regular flour tortillas for this recipe. I’ve use the “heart-healthy’ tortillas, and they tend to crack a bit when you fold them and refrigerate them. I’ve not yet tried my favorite Mission Carb-Balance (higher fiber) tortillas for these, as I think the higher-fiber content might cause the tortillas to brown too quickly in the oil. But as these are an occasional treat — and I carefully monitor any other carbs I consume when I have these — I don’t fret about it too terribly much.
You can use either soft-taco size or the much larger burrito-sized tortillas, depending upon how large you want each chimichanga to be. Generally speaking, if you use the smaller-sized tortilla, two chimichangas would equal a serving; if the larger burrito-sized, one chimichanga would equal a serving.
This smells so yummy, you’ll be dancing in your kitchen as you sip your Corona Light or margarita 🙂
Celebratory Chimichangas (Makes 4 to 6 servings, or more, depending upon quantity and number of fillings and size of flour tortillas)
- 1 pound lean (93/7 or greater) ground beef, turkey, or chicken (Note: Chipotle Turkey Sausage is also tasty and requires little to no additional seasoning; vegetarians, use refried beans and/or your vegetarian meat substitute of choice)
- 1 packet of your favorite taco seasoning (or otherwise season filling as you would for tacos)
- Flour tortillas (use soft-taco sized or burrito-sized, depending upon how large you want the chimichangas to be)
- Diced onion, if desired
- Refried beans, if desired
- Shredded reduced-fat cheese or sliced reduced-fat cheese
- Desired toppings to “dress” your chimichangas: lettuce, diced tomato, fresh cilantro, reduced-fat sour cream or fat-free Greek yogurt, shredded reduced-fat cheese or reduced-fat queso, guacamole or sliced/diced avocado, salsa, etc.
- Brown ground meat in a lightly seasoned or sprayed non-stick skillet. Drain if necessary. Season as per taco packet directions or otherwise season to taste as you would for tacos. Add in diced onion or, if you prefer, dice and sauté onion separately.
- Place some of the seasoned meat mixture (about 1/4 cup or so with smaller tortillas) and/or a dollop of refried beans, if desired, in center of tortilla. Add a bit of cheese and/or onion (if not in with meat). Fold in all sides to resemble a square packet, ensuring all filling is enclosed. Secure with wooden toothpicks.
- Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet or platter and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. (The refrigeration time does something to these to help them fry up crispy and hold together better.)
- Heat oil in deep fryer (I heat it to ’round 375/400F) or heat a couple – three inches of oil in a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat until hot. (Using a deep Dutch oven, as opposed to even a deep skillet, on the stove-top for frying will greatly reduce the chance for spatters, spills, burns, and other accidents, as you’re essentially recreating a deep-fryer on your range top.)
- Fry chimichangas (one or two at a time, depending upon size), until crispy and heated through, about 5 minutes. Place on rack to drain or on paper-towel lined plate or platter and keep warm until ready to eat.
- “Dress” (top) each individual serving of your chimichangas as desired.
- Refrigerate leftovers. These re-crisp nicely in the toaster oven or oven at about 350F for 5 or 10 minutes.