How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shrimp Taco

As Pam mentioned in recent posts, this has been a week of returning to the original mission of this blog: delving into our ample collection of cookbooks! As readers will notice, we sometimes simply search a few popular recipe sites (I'm loving Hispanic Kitchen, and All Recipes never fails to match available ingredients), rather than using the books. Not that there is anything wrong with it!

Still, going beyond one or two well-worn pages in our existing books is part of the project, and we've been rewarded with a couple of good meals recently, and tonight we continued that trend, dipping into one of the first cook books we purchased, The Well-Filled Tortilla As a search of the word tortilla on this blog reveals, we have hardly neglected this family friend, but we did find something new in its pages this week. It was about a year ago -- in my Landlubber Arrives post -- that I decided not to be intimidated by seafood.

Tonight's dish (well, last night at this point) was so easy -- despite having to make a few judgment calls -- that I really could have tried it years ago. The title on page 195 is practically an ingredient list for a dish that I prepared in less time than it has taken me to write about it -- Shrimp with Lemon-Chili Cream Sauce. I will describe it as made, which is with smaller portions and a couple of slight adjustments to the recipe. I did prepare all of the chopping of things ahead of time, because this is cooked so fast that the sauce and the filling need to be ready at about the same time.

For the sauce: Into a saucepan (aptly named), I put 1 cup of light cream (instead of heavy), a half of a finely minced Hungarian hot pepper (in place of a yellow wax chili pepper), the juice of half a lemon, a dash of salt, and a tablespoon or so of chili powder. I then had this handy to heat up and whisk with one hand as I cooked the shrimps with the other.

Preparing the tortillas: I rolled two large, store-bought tortillas in a sheet of  waxed paper and microwaved them for 30 seconds. This is our default method for softening tortillas, and it works really well. I also sliced half of a yellow bell pepper into thin strips, and then cut the strips in half. I skipped the shredded lettuce.

The shrimp: Here was the judgment call. First of all, we love shrimp but know a bit too much about the damage done in harvesting them, so I regret not finding a better source than the large bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer. We had about a pound of already cooked shrimp, and the recipe called for raw shrimp. So I was really just heating them. I thawed them first, of course, removed the tails, and drained them. Then I heated Canola oil in our indispensable cast-iron skillet, as I also started heating the sauce (above). I tossed the shrimp in with some salt, and stirred until they were hot. If I were starting from raw shrimp, I would have cooked them until they were opaque, but they started out that way. In either case, it takes no more than 3-5 minutes to cook shrimp.

I removed the shrimp from the heat and continued whisking the sauce. We noticed that it was pretty thin, so added a sprinkle of corn starch, which thickened it right up. We then divided the shrimp and sliced peppers between the two tortillas, spooned over the sauce, and folded them up in the expert fashion of former Arizonans. Still, the sauce oozed out a bit.

This was, I have to say, spectacular. The magic was in this sauce, which authors developed specifically for shrimp (so as not to overwhelm its delicate flavors), but which they recommend for other shellfish, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, duck, and even blanched vegetables. I can certainly see this easy sauce complimenting a nice fish fillet.

We paired these tacos with the some 2006 Brut RJR from Westport Rivers, a "91" and a Gold Medal winner. Rather than wait for a special occasion for champagne-style wines, we keep them on hand, and turn good meals into special occasions when the pairing seems ideal. Beer is a natural choice for a dish like this, but sparkling wines also go quite well with Mexican or Mexican-inspired fare.

Dessert: We do not usually have dessert, but we had something handy that was well paired with the bubbly. A friend who now lives on the Left Coast brought us an assortment of excellent chocolates today (in recognition of our upcoming chocolate course), and we opened the first one this evening. The Cherry & Chili Dark Chocolate Bar from Theo and the PPC Farmland Trust was an obvious choice, and we were slaked with 1/4 each of the three-ounce bar. With the Brut, of course!


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  2. Mmm! Your entry has has me missing so many delicious, Fair Trade chocolates we used to enjoy back home!

    Theo used to have a 3400 Phinney line with really creative flavor combinations. They still make a Coconut Curry bar that I love. I like Green & Blacks' ginger bar too. Of course local props go to Equal Exchange and its stocked in many of the organic markets that are prevalent in Taiwan. But Taza remains my favorite as a small, local, organic, and direct-trade company that makes a really special product in their stone-ground Mexicano Discs. I enjoy many of the varieties, in particular the Salt & Pepper disc. Ah, so much great chocolate to be had...

    The Shrimp w/Lemon-Chili Cream Sauce sounds fantastic. I love seafood very much but share your concern over ocean ecology and irresponsible fishing/farming practices.

    1. Just read about this company in the most recent Chefs' Collaborative newsletter. What do you think?

  3. Thanks, Tanya. That looks promising. We learned about the problems with shrimping in the Gulf of California. The markets and restaurants in the very northern portion of the Gulf sell delicious, unbelievably jumbo shrimp, but we learned that the dredging does long-term harm to benthic habitat out of all reasonable proportion to the amount harvested. So although aquaculture has its own problems in general, this looks like a good use of it for those -- like us -- who really want us some shrimp!