Thursday, July 3, 2008

Shrimp Tacos with (More Than) a Little Help From a Friend, or Further Adventures in Marinating

Former professional cook, ongoing gourmand, mild-mannered bon vivant, and all-around good guy Hubcap was coming in to town, and I had no idea what to feed him, when all of a sudden I had a vision.

I was sitting outside at Sea Salt, a local seafood eatery near Minnehaha Falls that everyone raves about. Alas, both times I have been there, the food has been, well . . . fine, pleasant. Let me be clear, I have no real complaints, but when it comes to seafood and everyone raving, well . . . it seems like things should be pretty transcendent. So, I’m sitting there mildly enjoying my shrimp taco when the thought plops down on top of me: I could make a better one, and I should do so for my good friend, Hubcap.

The only problem with my vision was that it was a partial one. I saw tender pink shrimp with a touch of lime, Monterey jack, and either avocados or guacamole, a little shredded lettuce and tomatoes, but I was drawing a blank on the salsa front. A traditional red salsa would have been adequate, but this was seafood and Hubcap and my own little ego; adequate wouldn’t suffice. So, I emailed my friend, C, another former professional cook, ongoing gourmand, less mild-mannered bon vivant (or perhaps bonne vivante, je ne sais pas) and all around good guy (er, gal).

She didn’t hesitate (at least as far as one can suss out hesitation or its lack thereof in an email) to lay out some guidelines that made me second and third-guess her self-editor, before following them (for the most part) to what I considered raving success. I thought I was inquiring about salsa, but the technique C introduced me to, one I had never heard of—and neither have any of the friends I’ve mentioned it to since then—was a post-cooking marinade. I hope I am not revealing any family or trade secrets, but for you, dear reader, it’s a risk I’m willing to run.

She directed me to cut the shrimp in half lengthwise, another step that was new to me, but which proved a fine move on the texture front, and a nice way of ensuring shrimp in every bite, something that doesn’t always happen with shrimp dishes. After quickly sautéing then removing them from the pan, I sautéed finely chopped onions and garlic, then poured lime juice over them, and let that cook for another minute or two. At this point, I combined the garlic-onion-lime concoction with the shrimp and placed it all in the fridge for an hour or two.

C’s other excellent suggestion was to put the flour tortilla on the skillet in a touch of oil, and sprinkle the Monterey jack on top of it. There was a trade-off with this step—the tortillas weren’t as malleable as they usually are—but it’s one I would make again for the sake of the crispy shell and melted cheese surrounding the rest of the ingredients. The only place I veered from C’s directions was in my choice of a tomatillo salsa over pico de gallo.

See also: Previous Adventures in Marinating

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