Have I told you how much I love Mexican food? In my world, it comes in a strong second behind my hometown favorites. I love margaritas. “Big Texas Rocks Salt” is how I order mine at our favorite neighborhood Mexican joint which I affectionately call “The Ranch” (El Ranchero). I love chips and salsa. Thin chips. Smooth and spicy salsa. The Ranch does that right too. I also adore everything on their menu. And if you ask me for recommendations, I’ll usually suggest The Ranch’s Chicken Soup if you’re looking for something light yet filling or their Pollo Fundido if you’re looking to satisfy a bigger appetite. I also love the atmosphere there. Like most Mexican restaurants, it’s loud and jovial. This one’s also familiar and comfortable. But I won’t be hanging out there today. I no longer enjoy fighting the massive crowds or enduring the long wait times associated with Cinco de Mayo. Instead, I’m cooking a New Orleans-inspired Mexican fiesta at home complete with tasty tostadas and cold cervezas–since I can’t even come close to duplicating the amazingly perfect Big Texas Rocks Salt.
These tostadas are a fun play on the day. They’re made with shrimp that hail from the Gulf of Mexico–not Mexico–that are spiked with a margarita-flavored marinade and topped with a sweet and spicy strawberry salsa. The salsa’s special too. While it’s not smooth, like my top tomato salsa, it is spicy. And, more importantly, it pays homage to the quaint City of Ponchatoula (just north of New Orleans) that hosts the popular Strawberry Festival each spring. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any homegrown Ponchatoula strawberries on hand when I made this batch. But hopefully I’ll make it back home before the Louisiana strawberry season ends where I can recreate this dish for my extended family. Heck, I may even try my hand at a batch of fresh strawberry margaritas. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Tostadas with Ponchatoula Strawberry Salsa Recipe
8 12-inch wooden skewers
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
16 tostada shells
4 ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and mashed
Ponchatoula Strawberry Salsa (see recipe) and Queso Fresco, for garnish
Soak skewers in water for 30 minutes. Preheat grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine shrimp and next 9 ingredients (through cayenne pepper). Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Remove shrimp from marinade and thread evenly on skewers; discard marinade. Brush both sides of shrimp with canola oil and season to taste with salt. Grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. To serve, spread equal amounts of the mashed avocado on each tostada shell, top with shrimp and garnish with Ponchatoula Strawberry Salsa and crumbed Queso Fresco. Makes 8 servings.
Ponchatoula Strawberry Salsa Recipe
2 cups chopped fresh strawberries (preferably Ponchatoula or Louisiana strawberries)
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/3 cup finely chopped red onions
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Zest of one lime
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips or as a garnish for grilled seafood. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.