It took months, if not years, of trial and error to come up with this recipe for shrimp tacos — a recipe that earned an A from The Professor! (In the pescatarian category, of course.) And finally I am ready to share it.
But first, let me recognize the recipe that started me down this culinary path: An article in Sunset magazine (which was then under the creative direction of my dear friend, Paul Donald, who is now doing this) titled “Tostadas in no time: Fish makes a quick and healthy Cal-Mex meal.” The original recipe called for halibut and a yogurt-lime sauce.
I always served them as tacos rather than tostadas, using heated but still flexible corn or flour tortillas.
I used halibut until I realized that it was just plain dumb to buy an expensive fish with a subtle flavor and then drown it, so to speak, in a spicy sauce. I tried buying a less expensive white fish, which helped my bank account but did nothing for the flavor. Then I tried shrimp, which I buy frozen at roughly the same cost-per-pound as fresh cod but which holds its own against the other strong flavors in the taco.
Then I added black beans, replaced the lime-yogurt sauce with a more flavorful chipotle sauce and upgraded the cabbage slaw by adding carrots and cilantro and by warming the mixture just a bit.
The result earned an A. “The combination of flavors and textures makes the dish interesting and very tasty,” said The Professor. “It’s so tasty that I always eat a bit too much.”
I will say, this is not a recipe for a weeknight. Especially if you don’t have The Professor to clean and grill the shrimp for you. But it is delicious, especially when you cook the shrimp on an outdoor grill, which seals in the juices better than a stove-top grill-pan. The beans add warmth and substance to the dish, while the cabbage slaw adds crisp fresh flavor and crunch. And finally, the chipotle sauce adds heat.
With that said … here is the recipe!
Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Sauce
Serves 2 – 3 (IOW, what I prepare for The Professor, my toddler, and me)
shrimp (I calculate 2-3 shrimp per taco and 2-4 tacos per person)
corn tortillas (again, 2-4 per person)
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
lime juice to taste
1 can of black beans
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 T mayonnaise
2 T adobo sauce
salt to taste
De-vein and clean the shrimp, and toss with olive oil and your spices of choice. Set aside.
For the sauce, stir the yogurt, mayonnaise, adobo sauce, and salt together.
Open and drain the can of beans. Chop the garlic and heat a saute pan on medium. When it is warm, add the oil. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds, making sure not to let the garlic burn. Add the beans, a half cup of water or stock and turn the flame to medium-low. Once the beans are warmed, crush them with the back of a wooden spoon or use an immersion blender. Add more liquid if needed and then adjust the seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and fresh cilantro. Turn the flame off or to low, and put the lid on.
Shred the cabbage and carrots (it’s faster to use a Cuisinart, though I have also shredded cabbage with a knife and the carrots with a cheese grater — the side of the classic four-sided grater with the largest holes)
Mix the shredded cabbage and carrots together with salt. In a small pan with olive oil, saute the mixture until it’s warm but still crisp. Remove from heat and add lime juice and 1 T or more of the chopped cilantro to taste.
Heat the tortillas on a griddle or in the oven and then wrap in aluminum foil.
Grill the shrimp. The Professor heats the grill to 500 degrees and cooks the shrimp 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second. When it comes to grilling, there is no sure-fire perfect cooking time. It all depends on the number and size of the shrimp being cooked, and the size and heat of your grill. But The Professor never cooks the shrimp for more than 4 minutes.