Grazing with Gary

Three takes on chicken for Cinco de Mayo

By: Gary Gilligan
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Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. In the U.S., the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. In Mexico, the commemoration of the battle continues to be mostly ceremonial, such as through military parades.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day — the most important national holiday in Mexico — which is celebrated on Sept.16, commemorating the Cry of Dolores that initiated the war of Mexican independence from Spain.

Thanks Wikipedia for the history lesson. Here are a few of my favorite recipes.

Now I have heard you all say some recipes have too many ingredients but with the Chicken Mole it is a complex of flavors that make it a great dish.  And you can always head down to Old Town Auburn for the Cinco de Mayo celebration starting a 5 p.m. and just buy dinner.


Chicken Fajita Pasta Salad

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (11-ounce) can Mexicorn, drained
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 8 ounces bowtie pasta, cooked
  • 2-1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups crushed Doritos


  1. Whisk together lime juice, cumin, chili powder and cilantro. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and whisk until combined.
  2. In a large bowl, combine black beans, corn, salsa, tomatoes, cooked pasta, chicken, and cheese.
  3. Pour lime dressing over pasta mixture and toss to combine.
  4. Right before serving, gently mix in crushed Doritos.


Mexican Chicken Bake

  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 to 8 corn or flour tortillas
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken, cooked, chopped
  • 2 cups cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 (4 ounce) can jalapenos, diced
  • 1 (2.25 ounce) can ripe olives, sliced


  1. Mix together soup, water and onions to form sauce.
  2. Using a 9-by-12-inch pan, cover bottom of pan with thin layer of sauce.
  3. Top with tortillas, covering bottom.
  4. Pour another layer of sauce, layer of green onions, chicken, cheese, jalapenos and olives.
  5. Continue layering until all ingredients are used, ending with generous layer of cheese on top.
  6. Garnish with any remaining olives.
  7. Microwave on 70 percent power 8 to 12 minutes, until heated through or, may also be baked at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes.


Gary’s Chicken Mole

  • 3 tablespoons (or more) peanut oil (preferably unrefined), divided
  • 5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 6 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 4 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 4 ounces dried pasilla chiles,* stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
  • 1 ounce dried negro chiles,* stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 4 (3-by-1/2-inch) strips orange peel (orange part only)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 (3.1-ounce) disk Mexican chocolate,** chopped
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Warm flour tortillas


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add chicken to pot; sauté until lightly browned, adding more oil by tablespoonfuls as needed, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to large bowl.
  2. Return chicken and any juices to pot. Add broth and orange juice; bring just to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Sauté until nuts and garlic begin to color, about 2 minutes. Add chiles and stir until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
  4. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large bowl. Pour chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion mixture (reserve pot). Add raisins, orange peel, and oregano to saucepan. Cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let stand until chocolate melts and sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.
  5. Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture to blender and puree until smooth; return to reserved pot. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Coarsely shred chicken and return to sauce; stir to coat. DO AHEAD: Can be made three days ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over low heat before serving.
  6. Transfer chicken mole to bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with warm tortillas.