Cinco de Mayo & Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol

May 5th, better known as Cinco de Mayo, is this coming Friday. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Celebrated from coast to coast with tequila shots and tacos, it is an excellent excuse for a party. Perhaps you’ve been thinking that it would fun to have a totally authentic Cinco de Mayo celebration. You know, skip the queso dip and Macarena in favor of real Mexican flavors and dance steps. I get it. You want to a party like they do down in sunny Mexico.

Alright then, here’s what you do … nothing. Yup, that’s right. Absolutely nothing.

Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated in Mexico. Widely mistaken for Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo commemorates an early victory in the Franco-Mexican War. The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862. The resulting victory was more than fifty years after Mexico declared its independence from Spain. In case you’ve forgotten, Mexico was a colony of Spain not France.

So indeed, our enthusiastic celebrations of Cinco de Mayo are somewhat akin to the Swiss celebrating the American victory against the British in the 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh. In case you’re wondering, they don’t. I know where Plattsburgh is but I doubt that too many of my Swiss friends do. I also know where Puebla is. Not because I’m a geography or history whizz but because I looked it up on a map a few minutes ago.

Regardless of whatever convoluted calculations or interpretations you might try to make, Cinco de Mayo adds up to being a mostly American holiday. I suppose that’s makes sense. After all, we are a nation of immigrants and many of our holidays reflect that. The Chinese New Year celebrates our ties with China. Everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. Oktoberfest has found its way from Munich to Muncie and several other U.S. cities.

Now the question arises – how to celebrate? Well, you could find one of those 100-foot margarita bars, the kind that serves fruity cocktails in glasses the size of fish bowls. Alternatively, you could expand your horizons and spend the day learning something about Mexico. Listen to Mexican music, study Mexican artists, investigate true Mexican cuisine or get a better understanding of how our two economies can and do work together.

Complete your day with a Mexican-inspired celebration. Skip the taco chain restaurants for a more authentic experience. I’m not sure if you can find real Mexican food this far north but you can always try. Many of us dream that one of those absolutely wonderful Mom and Pop-type Mexican restaurant will miraculously appear close to home. So far, it hasn’t happened but one can always hope.

For now, invite a few friends over and try your hand at some Mexican-inspired dishes. Dinner outside in early May in New Hampshire is probably pushing it but cocktails on the porch might work. Set your table with a brightly colored cloth and flowers and think warm and sunny thoughts.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo y ¡buen apetito!

Oh, and by the way, Mexican Independence Day – it’s on September 16.

Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Appetizer or main course, shrimp with spicy peanut sauce will make a delicious addition to your Cinco de Mayo feast. This smooth peanut sauce is also good with chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Olive oil
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 onion, chopped
4 or more (to taste) dried arbol (also called bird’s beak) chiles, stemmed
1/2 teaspoon allspice
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2-3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime or to taste

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, peanuts and chiles, season with allspice, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until the onion is soft and the garlic is fragrant, 2-3 minutes more.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Let the salsa cool for about 15 minutes, transfer to a blender and process until very smooth. Cool to room temperature, stir in the lime juice and serve.

The salsa can be prepared in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Grilled Shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
About 2 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes (optional)

Put the olive oil in a bowl, add the garlic, lime zest and juice and whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.

Heat the grill to medium-high. Place the shrimp directly on the grill or thread them onto the soaked skewers. Grill the shrimp, turning once, until just opaque, 2-4 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol.

The shrimp can be grilled in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Puffy Apple Pancake

Two Years Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Three Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Four Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Five Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Six Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Seven Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Eight Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo and our southern neighbor on Friday? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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