When we are in Chicago we are lucky enough to live on a street that serves what I believe to be some of the best Mexican food in the city. It’s Western for those Chicagoans who may be reading. In particular we have not one but two 24hr restaurants that both serve a pretty mean taco. Yes people, you did hear correctly, I did say 24hr tacos! On my doorstep!
Anyway, before I spent any time in the States I thought a taco was a crispy cone shaped tortilla that collapsed when you bit into it leaving ingredients spilling down your front. How wrong I was. Little did I know that any true Mexican restaurant would never serve a crispy taco, no, no, no. It’s soft shell all the way baby and boy are they good. I mean really good.
I’ve come a long way since those days. For example, i’ve discovered Mexican chorizo – a glorious soft meat that you fry but still has that wonderful smoky taste you find in the Spanish sort. In fact, I would say I’m now a bit of a Mexican food afficionado and I go to great lengths in my own kitchen to try and recreate these amazing dishes. So tonight, my friends, was taco night:) Much to my husbands delight, as he has become a little obsessed with our local Las Asadas, which, in his opinion, serves the ultimate taco. High praise indeed!
I had steak left over from my Beef Stroganoff and I bought some lovely little prawns for my favourite, the shrimp taco. Unfortunately soft taco tortillas are not widely available here in the UK but fear not my lovelies because all you need is a sharp knife, a bowl and you are good to go. Don’t dump the remainder of the tortillas, they have many, many uses. How about cutting them into strips(or triangles or any shape you so wish), frying and salting for your own homemade tortillas chips. Alternatively you could fold them into scrambled eggs a la Nigella for a Mexican inspired breakfast or my choice would be to let them go stale and make Chilaquiles. More on that awesomeness later but for now we can content ourselves with some seriously tasty tacos.
For the shrimp tacos:
3 baby sweet peppers
1 ripe avocado
zest/juice 1 lime
small bunch coriander and/or flat leaf parsley
teaspoon chilli in oil
teaspoon tomato puree
salt and pepper
For the steak taco:
100g beef steak (any kind that you can cut into strips)
1/2 teaspoon chilli in oil
tablespoon coriander/flat leaf parsley (of the bunch you’ve already chopped)
50g cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
For this recipe I like to chop everything in advance so that the tacos can be easily assembled without any fuss. Lay out your tortillas (I like to do them two at a time) and place a medium size bowl in the centre, carefully using the knife to cut around it so you get a perfectly round, perfectly formed taco tortilla.
It’s much easier to tackle the shrimp taco first because they take longer. Finely chop the onion and pepper as small as you can – you’ll thank me later. Ditto the coriander and flat leaf parsley. Zest the lime and scoop out the contents of the avocado into a bowl. I make a very easy guacamole by gently crushing the avocado with the back of a fork. Lightly season with salt and pepper and squeeze the juice from half the lime into the bowl – this will stop it from discolouring and brighten up the creaminess of the avocado.I would also grate the cheese for the steak tacos now too.
Next fry the onion and pepper in a little oil and butter on a medium heat. You might be sick of me saying this already but do not let them colour and don’t let them turn to mush. When they have softened season and mix through the lime zest, tomato puree and chilli in oil (Bart’s spices do a great one but you can get them everywhere now. Failing that add a scotch bonnet.) At this stage I add the rest of the lime juice and a teeny bit of water so that a light sauce is formed. Not too much mind because you want the mixture fairly dry when you assemble your taco and if it’s wet prepare yourself for some messy eating! At the very last minute add the prawns and heat through. Before transferring to a bowl toss in the herbs and briefly stir through. Leave to the one side – you could cover them if you like but the steak tacos are going to take a mere minute.
Wipe the pan with a paper towel. Allow the pan to heat up again – medium to high heat this time. Season the meat just before throwing in the pan and fry vigorously ensuring the meat is sealed. Add the chilli, herbs and take off the heat.
Now for the assemblage. Fill one tortilla with the shrimp mixture and top with avocado and the other with the steak and cheese. Eat and go back for seconds I would say:)
Okay, so it’s not entirely authentic but it’s not too far off. For more genuine mexican fare head over to Rick Bayless’s site: http://www.rickbayless.com/ but don’t forget to come back to peasoup x