Cinco de Mayo Shrimp

No matter if it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan, one of the most interesting things about cultural celebrations is the food. And one of my favorites is Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates a famed victory of the Mexicans over a French army in 1862 and should not be confused with Mexican Independence Day, Sept. 16. It’s basically celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla, where the battle took place. But the festivities remembering the event have really caught on in the U.S.

One way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo is with sauces and moles. Both have become very popular north of the border, and I’m not just talking about Texas and the Southwestern states. Right here in Grand Forks, there are several Mexican restaurants, and at least one of them boasts authentic sauces and moles.

Following are three sauces or moles that are sure to get you in the mood for Cinco de Mayo. One is to be served with shrimp.

Shrimp in Pumpkin-Seed Sauce
1½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
2½ ups water
1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds, unroasted, unsalted
3 serrano chilies
¼ medium white onion, chopped
8 sprigs cilantro or more to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
Put shrimp shells, water and salt to taste in a saucepan; cook over medium heat, 15 minutes. Strain, reserving broth; discard shells. Heat shrimp in broth to a simmer; cook, 2 minutes. Strain, reserving the broth. Set shrimp aside.
Lightly toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet. The seeds should puff up a little but not brown. Puree the broth, pumpkin seeds, chilies, onion and cilantro in a blender until smooth.
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat; stir in the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes lumpy, return to blender; blend until smooth. Stir in the creme fraiche and shrimp; heat through and serve.

New Mexico Mole
½ cup each: pecans, pine nuts
1 stick Mexican cinnamon
½ cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon anise seeds
4 cloves
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 stick butter
½ cup garlic
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 (½ ounce) chimayo chili, seeds removed
½ cup apricots, pitted
3 ounces white chocolate
½ cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon white pepper
Heat a dry skillet over medium heat, 2 minutes. Lightly toast the pecans and pine nuts. Add the sesame seeds, anise seeds, cinnamon stick, cloves and cumin seeds; cook, stirring constantly, until lightly golden.
Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion and red chili; cook until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.
Place all ingredients, except white pepper and salt, in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, adding water if necessary.
Pour sauce into a large saucepan. Heat to a boil; lower heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, 1 hour. Add white pepper and salt to taste.

Chipotle Sauce
3 to 6 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 32-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
2 cloves garlic
1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Puree the chilies, tomatoes, broth, garlic, cumin seeds and oregano. Strain. Saute puree in hot oil and season with salt and pepper to taste; heat to a boil. Serve.
Yield: 5 cups.