Cinco de Mayo, Spanish for the “fifth of May,” is celebrated next week, often with food and spirits. Many cooks, therefore, will be sorting through their jumble of spices to liberate the cumin, chili powders, cinnamon and oregano — common seasonings of Mexican cuisine. I once assumed the holiday celebrated Mexico’s liberation from Spanish rule as well, which would be equivalent to the American Fourth of July. Wrong.
Mexico celebrates its liberation from Spain on Sept. 16. Cinco de Mayo festivities commemorate the victory of a small Mexican army over a much larger French force at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. This date, for many, symbolizes the Mexicans’ determination to rid themselves of foreign domination.
Another interesting bit of myth-busting trivia, according to many websites, such as Bandarasnews.com, is “Cinco de Mayo is actually celebrated more widely and on a grander scale in the United States than it is in Mexico, possibly due to effective marketing techniques.”
Whatever your reason for celebration, be it Mexican sovereignty or a 10-for-10 avocado sale, the history and shared heritage of Mexico and America celebrates a vibrant culinary culture, expressed in its plethora of fresh ingredients and spices. Check out the local groceries — colorful Mexican chilies appear waxed with shellac, as exotic birds and fauna of the Yucatan peninsula. And dried peppers, with their leathery black and wrinkled brown skin, remind me of wizened viejos combing the Coahuila desert for cacti.
This recipe, adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, expresses the flavors of Mexico with an adobo — which is essentially a marinade commonly comprised of vinegar or citrus, oregano and garlic — and pineapple salsa. Fruity salsas, such as this pineapple, are always marvelous paired with pork.
Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you — it’s actually quite simple to put together. There are no heavy sauces, and the additional ingredients translate to additional flavor — and less fat.
Cooking Light recommends you “remove the silver skin, which is the thin, shiny membrane that runs along the surface of the meat. Leaving the silver skin on can cause the tenderloin to toughen and lose shape during grilling. Stretching the membrane with one hand so it’s tight, use your other hand to slip the tip of the knife underneath the silvery skin. Slowly slice back and forth, angling the sharp edge of the blade up, rather than down, through the meat. Continue this process until all the silver skin is removed, then discard.”
This is a fresh, light, and limey dish, a great way to kick off a week of Mexican fiestas — wonderful served warm tortillas, steamed white rice, guacamole and sour cream.
Viva Mexico, and pass the tequila!