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Crispy (or not) Shrimp Tacos with Mexican Rice

Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photoFrom the first time I tasted a fish taco, I, along with a million other people, fell in love with  it.  There is something about eating with our hands that appeals to a lot of people, me included.  I could do without the dripping down my chin food, but if it’s good enough I’ll even do that.

The coleslaw dressing and the pico de gallo need to be made several hours ahead so the only thing that is left to do is finish the shrimp.  I have included two options for the shrimp, depending upon how you are feeling at any given time.  The first, and my favorite, is the crispy version which uses egg white and panko crumbs for a definite crunch. Panko crumbs are Japanese bread crumbs and remain very crunchy after frying.  They can be found in many grocery stores or always in Asian stores.  I remember going into my local Asian store for panko crumbs and they spoke very little English (although they had American money down to a tee) and I spoke nothing they did.  Finally, a gentleman came out to see what was going on and between the two of us we managed to find the panko crumbs.  The secret is to use the phrase “Japanese panko crumbs”.  If nothing else they will point you to the Japanese aisle where  you will find them.   The second option is to simply boil the shrimp and use them in place of the crunchy version.

While I usually like a larger shrimp for most things, I use a #31 to 35 here (see Shrimp) as the smaller size fits perfectly into the taco even when coated.  The shrimp should be prepared when ready to eat, although they can be held up to an hour in a 150 degree oven when placed on a paper towel lined pan in a single layer.

Using bagged coleslaw from the grocery store cuts down on prep time but most importantly adds crispness to the taco even with the creamy dressing.  I also use jalapeño slices in a jar as the liquid is a key part of this recipe.When grating the lime zest, I suggest a micro planer but whatever you use make sure to take only the thin top part as the white pith underneath is extremely bitter.  Warming the lime in a microwave for 15 seconds makes juicing it much easier.  Thinking about the coleslaw, it would be fantastic on a pulled pork sandwich (there’s that hand thing again!)  The pico de gallo is the final flourish to this marvelous mouthful.

Thinking about the fish tacos I love, it dawned on me they are always in little flour tortillas about 6 inches in diameter.  I have seen 8 inch tortillas but not 6 in the stores.  So I just cut them down to 6 inches which makes them much easier to eat.

Accompanying the tacos is a quickly made Mexican Rice that complements them.  While the word “Mexican” in a recipe often conjures up thought of spicy hot, this is actually the cooling agent on your tongue.  I would suggest using a fork here as hands don’t work too well.

When designing a recipe, there is always the expectation that it will be good – and most of the time it is.  The ones that miss the mark never see the light of day until they have been reworked or discarded.  Then there are those that surprise even the creator with their taste and depth of flavor.  This was one of those really special recipes that remind me of why I love cooking so much.

Cumin Honey ColeslawTomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photo 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño peppers from a jar
1 tablespoon jalapeño liquid from the jar
2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 – 8.5 ounce bag shredded coleslaw

Whisk everything but the coleslaw together in a large bowl.  Add the coleslaw and mix well.  Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photoRefrigerate until needed.  This should be made 4 to 5 hours before using.

Pico de GalloTomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photo 1 1/2 cups tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon jalapeño, finely chopped from a jar
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all together.  Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photoRefrigerate until needed.  This should be made 4 to 5 hours ahead.

Crispy Fried Shrimp
1 pound raw shrimp, 31 to 35 count
2 egg whites
1 1/2 to 2 cups panko crumbs
Vegetable oil to about 1/4 inch depth in saute pan

If the shrimp is in the shell, which is my preference, peel and devein them.  See Shrimp

Place the egg white in a shallow  bowl and beat it with a fork until foamy.  Place the  panko crumbs in another shallow bowl to the right.  Have a paper towel lined baking sheet next to the panko crumbs.

Place the shrimp in the egg whites and turn to coat both sides.  Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photoPut them in the panko crumbs,Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photo turning them to coat both sides.  Press the crumbs onto the shrimp.  Remove to the paper towel lined baking sheet.

Pour enough vegetable oil in a medium size sauté pan to a depth of 1/4 inch.  Heat until very hot, but not smoking.   The temperature should be about 350 degrees.  I test first by dropping a few crumbs into the hot oil.  If the oil bubbles nicely the oil is hot enough.  Being paranoid, I then fry one shrimp.  It should only take 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Don’t overcook the shrimp inside.  The crumbs should be a beautiful medium golden brown.  If you are a tester, put the remaining shrimp in the pan.  Fry as directed.  Remove, with a slotted spoon or spider to a paper towel lined rack to drain. If not serving for up to  an hour, place them in a 350 degree oven.Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photo

However, just before frying place the shrimp back in the panko crumbs and press more on, then fry immediately.

Alternately, bring a pan of salted water to a boil and cook the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes until they are opaque and pink. Do no overcook.

Assembly
Trimmed flour tortillas
Honey Cumin Coleslaw
Pico de Gallo
Crispy or boiled shrimp

Holding one taco in the palm of your left hand or right hand if you go that way, place 3 or 4 shrimp on the tortilla,Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photo top with cumin honey coleslaw Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photothen the pico de gallo.Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photo

Serve with the Mexican Rice below.

Makes 4 servings of 2 tacos per person

Mexican Rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup celery, finely diced (2 large ribs)
1/2 cup onion finely diced (1 medium)
1 generous cup red or green bell pepper or half of each, diced
1 cup long grained rice
1 cup tomato sauce (1 8 ounce can)
1 1/2 cups water
1 – 4 ounce can diced green chiles
1 t salt
1 teaspoon cumin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a medium size, oven proof sauce pan and add celery, onion and bell peppers. Saute about 10 to 12 minutes until slightly softened. Add rice; stir well. Add remaining ingredients, cover pan and bring to a boil. Place, covered, in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir well. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

Tomatoes taco shrimp rice pico de gallo panko Mexican coleslaw cabbage  food photo

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