December 12th is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, "Empress of the Americas"! So put a pause to your fasting and prepare a Mexican feast!
Our Lady of Guadalupe is so celebrated in Mexico that December 12th is one of the most important days of the year. The festival of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe actually begins a week before December 12. Thousands of pilgrims from all over Mexico, many traveling for a week on foot, congregate at the Basilica of Ville Madero, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Once there, the pilgrims take part in various devotional ceremonies in honor of the Virgin. The streets outside the church are packed with people who wait their turn to enter the church and pray. On the eve of December 12, the conchero dancers gather in the atrium of the church. Accompanied by the music of mandolin-shaped instruments made of armadillo shells (concha), the dancers alternate so that they may dance their many traditional dances until dawn. Since it is a grand day for all Mexicans, food and drink are an important part of their celebration, and many people save up their money throughout the year for this special occasion.
December 12th marks the anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1531 to an Aztec Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac, who was baptized and given the name Juan Diego. For the full story, go to http://www.sancta.org/intro.html.
There are many possibilities for a fun Mexican menu. If you want to go the quick and easy route, make tacos! And maybe flan for desert? You can actually buy pretty good flan in the grocery stores now. Perhaps you could decorate your table with roses, or pointsettas, Mexico’s official flower. If however, you are feeling more ambitious, below you will find delicious recipes for chicken mole and Mexican wedding cakes. You will also find a link to Mexican music in honor or Our Lady of Guadalupe and to a good children’s book in her honor. There is also a prayer you might say with your children before dinner or bed.
Chicken mole (This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s,
The Sweet Life in Paris.) It makes enough to
smother one cooked chicken or a pork shoulder.
5 dried ancho dried chiles
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup raisins or diced prunes
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon each: cinnamon, ground cloves, dried oregano, powdered cumin, ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup water (or more, as needed)
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
Soak chiles in very hot water until soft, about 30 minutes or so.
(Make sure they're submerged by setting a lightweight bowl on top ofthe chiles.)
In a small skillet, sauté onion in vegetable oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Add spices and herbs and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, being careful not to let them burn.
In a blender, grind together the almonds, cooked onions, tomatoes, spices, raisins or prunes, sesame seeds, salt, pepper, and water. Puree until smooth.
Remove seeds and stems from the chiles and puree very finely, passing the chiles through a food mill. (If you don't have a food mill, press the puree through a mesh strainer to make remove any skins. Some people just puree them in, but they can be tough.) Blend the chile paste into the mole and add additional water, as necessary, until the consistency is smooth and slightly pourable. Add the melted chocolate.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
To make Chicken with Mole Sauce:
Brown poultry pieces quite well in a large casserole in vegetable oil. Once nice and brown, remove the chicken pieces from the pan and saute one chopped onion in the casserole and cook until translucent.
Deglaze the casserole with some wine or stock, and scrape in anybrowned bits from the bottom with a flat wooden spatula.
Add the chicken back to the casserole along with a cinnamon stick or two, and add enough chicken stock, water, or white wine to cover chicken pieces. Cover the casserole, and gently simmer chicken until tender throughout.
Once they are cooked, remove the chicken pieces from the liquid and arrange them in a shallow baking dish. Smear chicken pieces generously with mole and bake in a moderate oven, turning once or twice during baking, for about 30 minutes.
Serve with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.
Mexican Wedding Cakes
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, lightly toasted, coarsely ground
1 cup powdered sugar to roll the cookies in
1/8 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, mix the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla at medium to high speed until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and cinnamon until well blended.
Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
Mix until well blended. Fold in the nuts.
Roll small pieces of dough into walnut-sized inch balls.
Place the balls on a lightly greased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies just getting color on the bottom; do not let them brown!
Mix the reserved powdered sugar and salt. Roll the cookies generously but gently in the powdered sugar mixture. When the cookies are cool, store them in a tight can.
A children's book about Our Lady of Guadalupe:
This link will take you directly to Amazon where you can buy Tomie de Paolo’s “Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
This link will take you to Amazon, where you can order the listen to and download tracks of this great CD:
Prayer to Our Lady: To Our Lady Dark Yet Fair
O hail, thou Virgen de Guadalupe! Unfailing refuge, our solace in
days of grief, Radiant Queen so kind, our Mother of sweet relief
¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Lovely Maid, fairest star above the sea! Advocate e'er gracious of clemency and love, Deign to listen to our pleas, O mother above ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Yea, O Lady of Guadalupe; O meek and gentlest One, take heed to our groaning; For oft we stumble and raise to thee our moaning ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Golden gate of heav'n, thou radiant portal; Unstained by sin, blissful queen of heav'n and earth, Aid me that I may love Him whom you did give birth ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Daughter of God, thou queen of royalty, Ave Maria! With joyful hearts we hail thee! Look on us so kindly, O Blessed Virgin Mary! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!
Unfailing refuge and sweetest Mother; Pearl of grace so fair, fail not thine children to care, E'er our sweetest Advocate who did God once bear ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!