I'll be honest. I'm absolutely infatuated with tacos. It's a problem. But I mean...aren't we all under some powerful taco spell? Soft or crunchy, corn or flour, and usually loaded with toppings galore, the taco is my ultimate comfort food. Whether I'm stressed out or just in a slight funk...tacos have a magical way of rescuing my soul. With just one bite, the bad energy is gone and I feel joy once again. Yes, I am still talking about tacos and yes, I am quite serious.
Growing up, tacos were kind of a treat for my family. Every two weeks, we'd have a full blown American-style taco night. My goodness, how my big brother and I anticipated that dinner as if Christmas was coming. My mom always made 'em with seasoned ground beef and crunchy yellow corn shells. And while I hate to admit this, none of us were the wiser when it came to authentic taco prep. For Mexican food wasn't really prevalent in my folks' day. So....we topped those beef-filled hand-helds with shredded cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, black olives, sour cream...and Old El Paso salsa. You think that's bad? Want to know the kicker of it all? My brother, my foodie partner in crime, squirted ketchup on his tacos...every...single...time. Still shaking my head over that business, Patrick.
Oh, how times have changed in the name of tacos. Nowadays, you can find me splurging with Patrick's Asian Fish Tacos, my Pollo Verde Tacos, and my Creamy Chipotle tacos. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I often hit up Tampa's pride and joy taco joint, Taco Bus on the regular too. Recently, I was craving a seafood stuffed taco. A white mild fish is the standard but I wanted something different. So I bought (way too much) baby shrimp along with a few other ingredients for a taco I had randomly brained up. A taco that I am sure has been done many times before...but only once in my kitchen.
With deliciously sweet and tangy pickled onions, a kicked up "crema," and some crunchy purple cabbage, these Cantina shrimp tacos came out just divine. And...I made them two ways. The first night, I used a little trick that I saw on Food Network a while back. I took soft corn tortillas, brushed them with some olive oil, and placed them over two rods on my oven rack. Baking at 350 for just 5 minutes, they instantly became crunchy tacos. Perfection. With all the leftovers, I kept the tortillas soft but heated them up in a pan on high for just 15 seconds on each side. These tacos boast so much flavor and texture variety; I promise they'll be a new favorite in your home.
Cantina Shrimp Tacos
12 soft corn tortillas
1 pound wild-caught shrimp (I used baby but medium-sized would work)
2-3 cups purple cabbage, shredded (in food processor or with large knife)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (if you can find it)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons EVOO
3/4 cup Jalapeño lime crema (recipe below)
1 cup pickled red onion (recipe below. FYI: Pickling takes a good 15-20 hours)
1) Put the shrimp in a large bowl and season with chili powder, cumin, white pepper, oregano, and salt. Make sure all the shrimp is evenly coated with seasoning. Now, bring a large non-stick pan to medium heat with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook the shrimp until no longer translucent. Should only take 2-3 minutes for small shrimp.
2) Take out another pan, large enough for the tortilla shells and bring to high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. With a brush, coat the entire surface of the pan with the olive oil. When hot, place tortilla shells, one at a time, on the pan for 15 seconds on each side. Transfer to a plate.
3) Using 2 shells per taco (for sturdiness) stuff with shrimp, cabbage, pickled onions, crema, and a generous squirt of lime. Finish off with a hot sauce of your choice (I like Cholula).
***Makes 6 tacos
Jalapeño Lime Crema
3/4 cup sour cream (Mexican sour cream if you can find it)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime
zest from one lime
2 teaspoons minced jalapeño
Mix the sour cream, lime juice, lime zest and jalapeño together.
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1) Combine water, sugar, and vinegar in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, allowing the sugar to completely dissolve. Put sliced onions in a large bowl and pour the vinegar and water mixture on top. Put in fridge for at least 15 hours.