REPRINTED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE ALPINE AVALANCHE
Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. Did you know that? I just learned that the other day. All these years, I’ve enjoyed tacos and margaritas in honor of Mexico’s Independence, and it wasn’t even the right reason.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the triumph of the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla against the French army. The French were considered the world’s most powerful army at the time. Mexico defaulted on loans to European countries, and France came to Mexico to collect. That was on May 5, 1862, which happened about 50 years after Mexico’s Independence Day that falls on September 16.
Today, Mexico doesn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo outside of Puebla, Mexico on the scale it is celebrated in the United States. The first celebrations date back to the 1860s when Mexicans in California celebrated the victory – and about a century later, it was revived in the U.S.
About 30 years ago, Cinco de Mayo was promoted by Mexican breweries, alcohol distillers and restaurant industries as a way to sell more tequila and beer. I would say that they were successful. Don’t you think of margaritas when you think of Cinco de Mayo? I know I do.
This year, Cinco de Mayo was on a Thursday, with celebrations all weekend in the Trans-Pecos region. My husband and I observed Cinco de Mayo on Thursday with tacos, Tres Leches cake and margaritas at the Blue Mountain Bistro in Fort Davis. Hungry for more, I made shrimp tacos for dinner Friday, with homemade corn tortillas, a lime cream sauce, guacamole and a colorful cabbage and mango slaw – my twist on Ensenada Style Baja Tacos. Saturday, we headed into Alpine and for lunch, and ate more tacos. Tacos three days in a row, and they were delicious. I love good tacos.
We have been eating at Los Jalapenos Mexican Restaurant in Alpine for a couple years now. At first we were surprised by the wait time for food… the sweet waitresses usually tell you there’s a 45-minute wait, and that sometimes turns people away. The place is generally packed with people that know the reason for the wait. It’s because every plate is prepared with delicious precision and made to order.
We’ve learned that ordering the appetizer of homemade tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa is the perfect way to spend that time before our beautiful plates of authentic tacos arrive. My husband often orders the Enmoladas Plate – chicken mole tacos drenched with mole sauce and covered in shredded lettuce, fresh sliced avocado, radish and tomatoes… not the kind of tacos you pick up to eat. I love the Cochinitas – spicy pork tacos with crisp lettuce and ripe tomatoes. Beans and rice came with both of our plates.
I usually end up taking a couple tacos home with me since the portions are generous, and he usually does not have leftovers to enjoy later. And no, I usually don’t share mine.
Marinade and dressing:
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Lime Cream Sauce:
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Cover and store unused portion for up to three days.
1 pound cleaned shrimp (I like to use Jumbo and slice them in half lengthwise, but I’ve used small and they work well, too)
4 cups finely shredded green or red cabbage
Corn tortillas (enough for 2 per taco if store-bought)
1 cup guacamole
In a small bowl, whisk together cilantro, lime juice, oil, honey, chili powder, salt, cumin and pepper.
Heat broiler to high. In medium-size bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the marinade and the shrimp. In second medium-size bowl, combine remaining marinade and cabbage (this is where I add diced mango to the slaw if I have it). Let both marinate for 10 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a broiler pan. Broil, 2 to 3 inches from heat, for 6 to 7 minutes, turning once.
Spread a tortilla with about 2 tablespoons guacamole – this holds your shrimp in place nicely. Top with 4 or 5 shrimp, slaw and drizzle with lime cream sauce. Sprinkle with salsa. Eat as many as you can.