I’m telling you, I have the best friends. Not once, but TWICE this year I’ve been invited to tag along on a tropical vacation. Take that Samantha Brown. In July I got to stay in a bona-fide beach mansion in Kona, Hawaii, and just recently got back from a girl’s trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Cha-ching!
As if being invited’s not enough, they let me cook dinner. All by myself, with no weird picky instructions, and no hurry or time restrictions. In fact, they usually pour themselves a drink, and leisurely watch as I cook. (Or more accurately, watch for a minute then go back out onto the balcony to soak in more sun.) I’ve been repeatedly reassured that I’m not invited to be the in-house cook, but because I’m charming and hysterical and super fun. Not 100% sold on that, but ¡HOLA! who cares when you’re in Mexico??
This trip was just the right mix of beach, sun, girlfriends, and (of course) margaritas. Our intentions were well documented when our first order of business upon arriving was to go to the Super Wal-Mart in town to stock up. A girl can’t tackle the pool hungry, believe me. I got a huge kick out of wandering around trying to figure out what different packages actually were. Somehow my OCHOS AÑOS of Spanish education have failed me miserably, and I had to guess an awful lot of the time. Besides a slight kilo-to-pound conversion miscalculation that ended up yielding enough shrimp to feed the entire resort, the stock-the-fridge-by-guess venture was a success (as in, none of us lost weight on the trip). Oh, and for the record, there wasn’t a single shrimp left.
The highlight of the trip was our wonderful concierge, Esperanza, who brought me her mother’s hand written cook book and translated a few of her coveted recipes for me. Hold the phone, kids, her REAL chiles rellenos recipe is in the pipeline. (Ok, so perhaps this is where you are completely convinced that I’m a total dork. The highlight of the trip for the other girls was decidedly Luis, the pool boy, and the carved out watermelon filled with fruity slushy booze that he brought us. I say whatever, Luis will be a distant memory when they get hungry and I’m cooking dinner.) Regardless, Esperanza, as well as her mother’s legendary recipe, warrants a dedicated blog post. Stay tuned.
But in the meantime, here’s a quickie for you. I whipped up these tacos in no time flat one night, and can tell you unequivocally, that food just tastes better when there’s a sunset over the beach as your backdrop. This recipe is a serious wing-it. Taste the sauce and add whatever seems to be missing. Adjust the shrimp, pepper, and avocado proportions to suit your tastes. Like tomatoes? Throw a few diced chunks in there, too. These are the best kind of recipes to experiment with – protein, pan sauce, veggies. Adjust the flavors to suit your own taste preferences. Just keep tasting as you cook! And by the way, if any of you need a personal vacation cook on your next exotic get away, let me know. I’m still have a few weeks open in 2013
Chili Lime Shrimp and Avocado Tacos
Click here to print this recipe.
Time to prepare: 1 hour, hands-on time 15 minutes
1 lb shrimp, uncooked, shelled and de-veined
1 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon chili powder plus kosher salt to taste, or a mexican chili powder spice mix
1/4 cup mexican beer (corona, negro modelo, etc.) or water
2 large red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, rough dice
2 jalapeño peppers, petite dice
2 large avocados, rough dice
wheat or corn tortillas, your preference (medium, fajita size)
Heat the oil over medium high heat in a frying pan. Add the shrimp and cook 1 minute, then flip each over to cook the other side, 1 minute more. Add the spices and the juice from one lime and stir fry the shrimp for just a few minutes more, until they are almost done.
Deglaze the pan with the beer or water, and stir the shrimp, until cooked completely through. (Try to avoid overcooking it, shrimp gets rubbery quickly when overdone.)
Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. (Pour off any liquid that’s accumulated in the bowl with the shrimp back to the pan.) Put the shrimp in the fridge to chill to at least room temperature, cooler if you have time. To the remaining sauce, add the juice of another lime, and bring to a simmer. Reduce until a maple syrup consistency is achieved, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more beer, seasoning, lime, or salt to achieve your desired flavor profile. This sauce should be very concentrated in flavor.
In a large serving dish, combine the peppers and diced avocado, and squeeze the remaining lime’s juice over top, gently tossing to coat. Add the chilled shrimp and the sauce reduction, and toss to coat completely.
In a clean saute pan, heat the tortillas over medium heat, about 45 seconds to 1 minute each side.
To serve, place a spoonful of the shrimp mixture on a warmed tortilla.
This dish stands firmly on its own without the tortilla shells. To make it paleo-friendly or gluten-free, just eat it over a bed of greens, or on its own for that matter.
Depending on how large your frying pan, you may need to do the shrimp in two batches. You want each shrimp to lie flat on the pan so they can brown just a little bit and cook at the same speed. If they are crowded in the pan, some will steam and some will saute, cooking at different speeds. Inevitably, you’ll end up with some over-done.
Make Ahead: Cook the shrimp and reduce the sauce up to 12 hours ahead and keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve. The peppers can be cut ahead, but wait until you’re ready to serve to dice the avocado. Tossing with lime juice will help, but the avocado will oxidize and turn brown a bit. It’s still totally fine to eat, just less pleasant to look at. Assemble the ingredients, heat the tortillas and serve.
To minimize the heat from the jalapeños, de-seed them, and cut out the ribs. If you want more heat, include some or all of the ribs and seeds in your dish.
There are lots of ideas out there on how to cut up an avocado, my plan of attack is: slice it in half lengthwise. Remove the pit with a knife or spoon. Hold the avocado in your hand, with a dish towel between your palm and the avocado (so if the tip of your knife goes through the peel, your hand will be somewhat protected). Score the inside avocado in the desired chunk size. Scoop out with a spoon.