One of my favorite things on TV when it comes to food is Rick Bayless’ fabulous PBS show “Mexico – One Plate at a Time.” Not only does Bayless have a bottomless energy and enthusiasm for traditional, authentic Mexican food, he also provides fascinating historical and educational commentary about Mexico’s culture and traditions, while creating mouthwatering dishes that cause me to enviously stare at the screen. He is so fantastic at describing the tastes and smells of his cooking that you can almost taste and smell it yourself. Enough said, the guy’s a genius.
A long time ago, my family gave me one of his cookbooks – “Fiesta at Rick’s” – and I tried a few of the recipes, but found many of them a little too difficult for my busy lifestyle and limited access to authentic Mexican ingredients.
A few years after that, I received “Mexican Everyday”, which, to compare the two, is a fiesta without the fuss. Matthew and I couldn’t wait to try our first recipe from it, “Seafood Salad Tacos with Tomato, Radish and Habanero.” We made a few changes: we didn’t have habanero in our grocery store, so we substituted half of a jalapeno; we changed a few of the amounts to suit our tastes; and whereas the recipe allows for preparing it with any type of fish, we decided to focus on shrimp, since we love shrimp tacos.
As an added coincidental plus, I had just been watching Bayless on TV talk about Yucatecan cuisine, and the introduction to this recipe is all about the market in downtown Yucatan! Cool stuff.
Yucatecan Shrimp Tacos
What You Need:
1/2 to 1 pound of small shrimp (at least 40) (We like to buy a small to medium bag of frozen raw shrimp at Aldi. They’re inexpensive and easy to cook, because they are already de-veined and peeled.)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 jalapeno chile (optional for heat)
1 large tomato
1/4 cup cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
12 corn tortillas (Different grocery stores have a variety of brands that smell incredibly fresh and homemade.)
What You Do:
1. Put the shrimp in a non-stick pan and add the butter. Saute until pink. Remove and place in a small bowl to cool.
2. Prepare the salad ingredients/vinagreta.
- Pour the lime juice into a medium-sized bowl. (You can use a bottle of lime juice, or squeeze a little fresh.)
- Finely chop the onion.
- Thinly slice the radishes.
- Cut off the stem and finely chop about 1/2 of the jalapeno pepper.
- Core and chop the tomato.
- Finely chop the cilantro.
- Add all ingredients to the bowl, along with the cooked, cooled shrimp.
3. Stir with a large wooden spoon and season with about 1 teaspoon of salt.
4. Warm the tortillas. (Bayless has a strategy for this, which we also saw in action on his TV show. Dampen a stack of about 6 paper towels. Wrap the tortillas inside. Place inside a large plastic Ziploc-type bag, but do not close. Fold the top over and microwave on defrost for 4 minutes. This will make your corn tortillas softer and fresher.)
5. Assemble! After our first try, we suggest using two tortillas for each taco for added strength to the integrity of the taco.
Matthew’s Take: In a world that moves too quickly and stressfully, food preparation and consumption have turned into rat race processes of the dining out or heat-and-eat variety. This dish bucks that unsettling trend. There’s nothing already-processed or drive-through like about these Yucatecan tacos. You freshly prepare your ingredients. You slow down to savor the extraordinary flavor that gives your tastebuds pause. And you save this recipe to make again. Rick Bayless is the modern master of authentic Mexican cooking in America. I’m lucky my wife discovered him so I can now enjoy his tried-and-true recipes, too.
Molly’s Take: These tacos were cool, refreshing and bursting with crisp, fresh flavor. I suggest if you don’t like spicy things at all, maybe leave out the jalapeno, because it definitely added a kick. All in all, a very simple, delicious recipe that I’d suggest for any summer or winter night.