I have always been a fan of Mexican (or Mexican-American) and Tex-Mex cuisine, and even though, being Italian, I do not have a family tradition of making South of the border-inspired dishes, over the years I have encountered a number of recipes that have prompted me to offer a taco-bar themed dinner at home, with everything fresh and made from scratch.
Here is one favorite recipe, with great complementing flavors and succulent textures.
The dose is for 6
12 medium size wild shrimp, peeled and deveined
ancho chile powder (about 2 teaspoons)
paprika (about 2 teaspoons)
cumin powder (1-2 teaspoons)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
salt to taste
Coat the shrimp with the three spices, then place in a bowl and mix with the olive oil, garlic and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the salsa and tortillas.
Before grilling, add the lemon/lime juice. The reason the lemon juice is not added in the beginning is that it will "cook" the shrimp and compromise its texture.
Grill on a hot griddle, ribbed pan, or grill, about two minutes on each side, while brushing the remaining spiced marinade, until they turn pink. Do not over-cook, as the shrimp will lose its succulence and will turn rubbery.
Taste a piece of shrimp, and if needed, add salt to taste (some shrimp are inherently salty, so I recommend not adding the salt right away).
Mango salsa :
1 ripe mango, chopped
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, chopped
juice of one orange
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 small red onion, chopped
1 chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and set aside (may refrigerate, covered, and use within a day or two)
The idea of making homemade flour tortillas came to me after watching a show with chef Rick Bayless. So I based my recipe off of his, except that I use a food processor instead of mixing by hands. Also, instead of lard or vegetable shortening, which I never have in my kitchen, I substituted with butter, which perhaps takes away some of the authenticity of the tortillas, but works just fine. I have also seen recipes with vegetable oil, but I have never tried it before. Lastly, even though I didn't on this occasion, I often add a few teaspoons of flax seeds to the flour mixture, for extra crunch and health benefits.
Here is the recipe (adapted from Rick Bayless)
Combine the flour and fat in a food processor and pulse a few times until incorporated. Dissolve the salt in the water, and pour about 2/3 of it to the mixture while cup of it over the mixture and turn the food processor to the ON setting, and blend while adding a stream of the remaining water (or more if necessary). The dough should be of medium-stiff consistency, but not firm, and not as soft as most bread dough.
Divide the dough into 6 portions and roll each into a ball. Set them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes (to make the dough less springy, easier to roll).
Heat an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat.On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough into an even 7-inch circle: Flatten a ball of dough, flour it, then roll forward and back across it; rotate a sixth of a turn and roll forward and back again; continue rotating and rolling until you reach a 7-inch circle, lightly flouring the tortilla and work surface from time to time.
Lay the tortilla on the hot griddle (you should hear a faint sizzle and see an almost immediate bubbling across the surface). After 30 to 45 seconds, when there are browned splotches underneath, flip it over. Bake 30 to 45 seconds more, until the other side is browned; . Remove and wrap in a cloth napkin placed in a tortilla warmer. Roll and griddle-bake the remaining tortillas in the same manner and stacking them one on top of the other.
Assemble the wraps:
Place the grilled shrimp and mango salsa in the middle of the tortilla, and if desired, top with a dollop of sour cream, Cholula or other hot sauce, a few piece of lettuce (romaine or baby greens), and a few pieces of finely shredded red cabbage.
Fold and enjoy!