Feliz Cinco de Mayo

It seems the weather folks finally got one right, today. It’s been raining since about 3am and there’s still more to come. It’s kinda dark and dreary outside – perfect for making some fish tacos in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo is not the huge celebration in Mexico that it is in los Estados Unidos – and it is definitely not Mexican Independence Day – September 16th. I don’t really remember Cinco de Mayo at all as a kid growing up. But, by the time I moved to Tahoe in the mid-’70s, it was definitely a big deal. There was a great parade in Truckee led every year by one of my employees, Jose Ayala, and after the parade, it was party time with everyone eating tons of excellent food, playing guitars, singing – and getting muy borracho. There were a lot of hangovers on May 6th…

Back in those pre-I-9 days, I think a good portion of my staff was here illegally. Most of the kids only spoke Spanish – and if they spoke English, they were supervisors. My kitchen Spanish was pretty good back in those days and would definitely improve after a couple of drinks. It was not uncommon for us all to go out after work and some of the mixed Spanglish conversations we had were hysterical. You want to get to know another culture? Share some food and some alcohol, throw in some music, and go for it. Be prepared to laugh.

We fast-forward almost 40 years and the celebrations are a bit more sedate. The alcohol is a simple Paloma and the main dish is a fish taco. I think fish tacos originated in Baja California. I vaguely remember them as street food in Cabo San Lucas back in the ’70s when it was still a sleepy fishing village. It’s changed a bit…

And so have the tacos…

Tonight’s version have Crema – I had to make it from sour cream and buttermilk since I didn’t plan in advance – and pickled red onions – that I did have time to put together. The Crema is simply a few tablespoons of buttermilk to a cup of sour cream.

Crema

The Pickled Red Onions is a third of a cup of white vinegar, a quarter of a cup of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt, pepper, and 2 cloves of garlic, mashed. Bring it all to a boil.

Thinly-slice the onions…

Red Onions

Pack the onions into a jar and pour the boiling vinegar over. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Red Onions

And then there’s a vinegary spicy-hot dipping sauce… This may have been the star of the show. After the tacos were made, we just dipped them into this. Outrageously good!

  • 4 tbsp hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix everything together.

Hot Sauce

Thinly-sliced watermelon radishes

Watermelon Radishes

Jalapeño peppers

Jalapenos

Guacamole

Guacamole

Chopped tomatoes…

Tomato

And the feast…

Fish Tacos

This really was one of those meals that worked on every level. The fish was perfectly seasoned and cooked, the tortillas just slightly greasy and chewy but not crisp. The flavors and textures – from the crispy radishes and flavorful onions to the slightly-sour crema, the chunky guacamole… and the vinegary and hot dipping sauce…

A definitely good meal.

The best part about it, though, was bringing back those Tahoe memories and reaffirming that we are all in this, together – regardless of what our current government want us to believe.