Baja Fresca-style Shrimp Tacos

Oh, shrimp tacos. I could write a sonnet about you.

I’ve recently had a hot and heavy love affair with shrimp tacos. For the last 6 months they’ve been my favorite food. I’ve had them at every Mexican restaurant I’ve been to. (My favorite so far? Bahama Breeze’s coconut shrimp tacos. Nomtown, USA.) Anyhow, I’ve been told recently that I “can’t keep going out for shrimp tacos” because it’s “not in the budget” or something like that. I don’t remember. It didn’t seem like a rational conversation. 😉

Lucky for me, my brother-in-law makes my very favorite shrimp tacos. They are truly amazing. Like better than Bahama Breeze’s amazing. Joseph is a fantastic cook and he was kind enough to share this recipe with me. And, now, because I’m just so delightful, I’m going to share it with you. 😉 Joseph explains everything so well, so I’m just going to copy and paste his recipe. 🙂 #lazy

I omitted the red cabbage and switched sour cream out for non-fat greek yogurt for the topping, but those were the only changes I made! Enjoy, friends! Shrimp were on sale last week at Food Lion, so I hope you stocked up. 😉 This is one of those recipes you’ll want to make more than once a month. (Or if you’re like me, more than once a week. Don’t judge.)

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Yield: Serves 3-4 with leftovers. 5+ if served with an additional side
Total time: Varies greatly with ingredients, but I average about 45 minutes to an hour
Key points: Keep the liquid content low, use the freshest ingredients you can find, and tailor the taco filling to your tastes.
 
Ingredients:
– 10-12 medium flour or corn tortillas (6″ diameter)
– 1 pound shrimp, poached or steamed
– 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, cored, and diced
– 1/2 large red onion, raw, small to medium dice (about 3/4 cup)
– 1-2 vine tomatoes, seeded and diced
– 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
– 1/4 head of red cabbage OR 1/2 small radicchio, finely shredded
– 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
– Juice from 1-2 limes (2-4 tablespoons)
– Optional: Avocado, cucumber, rice, etc
 
When serving cold shrimp, even a little of that overcooked, rubbery texture will be obvious. Poaching your shrimp is simple and the results are well worth the effort: you get shrimp that really pop when you bite through the skin yet maintain a tender inner texture. It’s also cheaper to buy raw shrimp – I usually can grab a 1lb bag of 16-20 count shrimp (Extra Jumbo) for about $8 on sale, $10 normally. The pre-cooked packages run upwards of $14 for the same-sized shrimp.
 
Poaching instructions:
 
1. If necessary. thaw the shrimp, peel, and de-vein. Pat the shrimp dry, then toss in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Set the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
 
2. When ready, add the shrimp to a medium pot and add cold water until the shrimp are ~1″ below the surface. Season the water with 1 tablespoon each of salt and lime juice. Set the heat to medium-high and heat until the water reads 170°F on an instant-read thermometer (the water should be slightly steaming). Maintain this temperature, cooking the shrimp for about 7 minutes or until they are pink and firm to the touch. I’ll often pull one out of the pot, run it under cold water for a few seconds, then cut it in half to make sure the inside is fully cooked and the mouth feel is spot on. Remove from the heat, rinse under cold running water until they are about room temperature, then carefully dry. Depending on the amount of shrimp I cook, I’ll use a deep fryer spider or a deep slotted spoon to get the shrimp out of the pot and into a colander under the cold running water. If you’ve got a salad spinner, you can use it to quickly dry the shrimp after they’ve been cooled by the water.
 
3. Depending on the size of the shrimp, you may want to dice them up into bite-sized pieces. I usually get about 4 small sections out of 16-20 count shrimp
 
 
 
The other ingredients:
 
Please do note that the amounts listed in the recipe are completely tweak-able. I try to maintain a balance of most of the flavors while letting the mango come through a little more strongly, but if you love tomatoes and hate onions then, by all means, double up on the former and cut the latter completely. I’ll often add avocados if they are available or on sale, or I’ll make some rice to add as extra filler if a few more guests show up and I need to stretch the recipe a bit. It’s very flexible.
 
In my mind, the driving factor in preparing this (besides taste) is that you don’t want a lot of liquid in the mixture. Dry/drain everything that looks like it could leak water or juice into the mix. Nobody likes a taco where the insides slide out the back and your hand gets covered in juice. The second thing to keep in mind is texture: try to balance the crispness of ingredients like onion and cucumber with soft ingredients like mango.
 
Fresh mango works best in this recipe. Look for fruit that is just barely ripe; it’ll be easier to skin and dice since it’s not quite as soft as a fully-ripened mango. In the off season, you can substitute canned diced mangoes, but you’ll want to drain them and then dry them; the less liquid that you put into the fruit/veggie mixture, the less runny your tacos will be. It’s not a concern with fresh mango, but canned mango has a lot of excess water that is well worth taking the time to drain off.
 
Any type of onion will work in this recipe, really, but I recommend using red. Red onion is a great onion for serving raw. It has a strong flavor, a great texture, and the purple color adds much needed variety to most dishes. If you’ve got a particularly strong onion, try putting your diced onion in a bowl and cover it with cold water for a few minutes. Drain the water and dry the onion (DRY EVERYTHING!). I usually find that the quick cold bath cuts the harshness of the onion while maintaining the crisp texture.
 
I prefer vine tomatoes, but I’ve used everything from beefsteak to cherry tomatoes – any variety will do. I highly recommend seeding the tomatoes. Pulling the ‘guts’ out of the tomatoes makes sure you are only using the meatier flesh in the recipe and it cuts down on the overall liquid content. Tomatoes also add great color to the dish.
 
The red cabbage and/or radicchio are mostly in the recipe for filler and for color. Add this ingredient last; look at your taco filling mixture and determine how much filler you really need. If you’ve loaded it up with extra tomatoes and a few avocados, you might just need a small bit of sliced cabbage for aesthetics. Red cabbage is generally cheaper and more readily available, but radicchio is more tender and doesn’t have to be as thinly sliced. The flavors are different, but they are usually not a super-noticeable flavor element in this dish. If you’ve never made it, the extra cabbage can be easily made into curtido or any similar slaw.
 
Don’t skimp on the cilantro! It’s cheap (usually about $1 for a nice bundle at the grocery store, look for it near the parsley bundles) and the refreshing scent and flavor will really lift the dish up.
 
I usually serve these with some sour cream that I’ve thinned with some milk and lime juice. I start with ~1/3 cup of sour cream and thin it until it has the consistency of a gravy; I’ll mix in some finely chopped cilantro (it’ll take on a green tint) and set it out for guests to drizzle over their tacos, right next to the hot sauce.
 
Hopefully you stuck with us to the end. Trust me. These babies are worth it. 🙂
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