Cinco de Mayo… A celebration of Mexican street food and tequila!

Warm tortilla chips with a dip.

David WilhelmRecipes

I admit to being an unadulterated junkie when it comes to Mexican food, and based upon the number of times I eat it each month or cook it at home, I guess it would have to be considered my favorite. I always have a couple containers of frijoles de la olla and chile verde in my freezer so on short notice I can get my Mexican fix, especially on Cinco de Mayo!

I love the flavor of pinto beans slow simmered with chiles, cumin, garlic, beer and lots of bacon… it’s so simple yet so satisfying.

One of my favorite regional Mexican dishes is chicken in chocolate mole sauce. Whenever I try a new Mexican joint I always order it to see if it lives up to what has been my favorite version at Javier’s for years. It’s a recipe that I think they have prepared going all the way back to the days when he worked at Tortilla Flats in Laguna Beach and it’s hard to beat. It has just the right balance and depth of sweet, savory and heat that is addictive.

Growing up in Michigan we didn’t really have much in the way of Mexican food… I don’t even remember any Taco Bells. After dropping out of the University of Michigan after my freshman year I took a job on the Chevrolet assembly line, which lasted only about 6 months but the experience resulted in two really positive outcomes. First, the monotony of it drove me to quickly get my butt back into school, and secondly, it was my very first introduction to real, authentic Mexican food. Once a month one of the assembly workers, who happened to be Hispanic, came in with a thermal hot pack slung over his shoulder that was filled with his wife’s homemade pork and red chile tamales.

I can remember the first time I ate one I couldn’t believe how exotic the flavors were. The rich aroma from the corn masa mingling with the tender shredded pork basted with a tongue numbing fiery red chile paste was out of this world to me.

I’m sure that seems a bit over the top to my fellow Californians but you need to understand that I was living in Flint, Michigan (yes, that same Flint, Michigan of dirty water infamy)… the land of Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip and Velveeta, so my first tamale started me on a culinary adventure for the next 40 years and right now that journey is taking me toward my annual Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Rather than celebrate in a restaurant I prefer to get together with friends and do a backyard party where everyone is invited to bring their own favorite Mexican dish. I like to fire up the grill and cook shrimp, steak and chicken on mini corn tortillas just like the Mexican street vendors do. Its great fun for everyone to make their own tacos finished with a variety of salsas and sides. But to start the party it’s important to have some great ‘bocaditos’ or snacks normally centered around salty and crispy corn tortilla chips.

As a sidebar, I worked as a consultant for Taco Bell several years ago and the one thing their R&D people were always talking about was how important it was that their food have a crispy crunch and texture.

Even today with all their goofy named wrap concoctions there is always a layer or two or three of something crispy.

So back to the party… I have a go to warm dip that I’d like to share with you. It’s easy to make and you’ll be amazed at how quickly it will disappear. I know many of you out there think using lard is just not an option but I have found a company called Epic that sells cage free duck fat, grass fed beef tallow, and rendered lard from Berkshire pigs.

a jar of epic berkshire pork fat

Epic Flavor

Using their either of these three products make this dip really something special and authentic, but if that’s not your thing at the very least use bacon fat. Salud!

Recipe – Spicy Black Bean Dip


» 3 TBS Lard, duck or bacon fat
» ½ cup Diced onions
» 3 TBS Minced garlic
» 2 each Black beans – 15oz cans, with juice
» 1 TBS Gebhardt’s brand chile powder
» 1 TBS Ground cumin
» 1 tsp. Garlic powder
» 1 tsp Kosher salt
» 1 TBS Honey
» 2 TBS Chipotle chiles

spicy black bean dip ingredients ready to puree

Ready to puree


Place rendered fat in medium sauce pan along with onions and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a minute longer, stirring frequently.

spicy black bean dip ingredients being mixed

Process until smooth

Add all remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and pour into food processer. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve warm with tortilla chips.