The thing about certain spice combinations and me is that I either love them or hate them. With Cajun, it is always a love and with Mexican, it is almost always a hate. I don't know why this is, perhaps the liberal use of citrus that pervades Mexican cuisine is a natural inhibitor or perhaps it is my known and dedicated hatred of cilantro. Whatever the case, while I love the idea of Mexican food (who doesn't love whipping up fresh ingredients and choosing their own toppings?), somewhere along the implementation side it falls flat to me. Luckily, when you make things in your own home you can do whatever you want and break culinary boundaries just for kicks. You could even make the shrimp and serve it over rice or on a salad for a different kind of treat...I'll never know!
With a bunch of Californians as roommates, Mexican food is placed in high regard in our house. They can wax poetic about the merits of chunky versus smooth guacamole, and which refried bean burritos are the best in the Los Angeles area. I find that the spices used in Cajun cooking often compliment the ingredients used in Mexican cuisine rather nicely, but I knew that getting the roomies to eat my completely inspired by Mexican but not actually Mexican food would be a bit of a challenge. Luckily they were up for it since they trust me. After introducing my roommates to the joys of barbecued ground turkey nachos and Cajun spiced guacamole, they are much more willing to put up with my fused food attempts. We recently had a Cinco de Mayo party where I introduced more people to the wonders of Cajun spiced Mexican inspired foods. I made the regular spiced ground beef mix with the taco seasoning packets (which I didn't eat but I heard was good) and then I made this shrimp. Take a wild guess on which one was eaten quickest? And so without further ado, let's get into the recipe...
Today's Cast of Characters:
As for the shrimp its extremely simple. We got the frozen uncooked Argentinian Red Shrimp from Trader Joe's and I would seriously recommend these. They have a flavor that is somewhere between lobster and shrimp mixed with a little bit of crayfish. They are definitely sweeter than your average shrimp and they present an excellent contrast to the bold and spicy flavors of the seasonings. A small onion and some garlic along with coconut oil for frying are among the other ingredients. Finally, a bit of Salt, Pepper, Cajun Seasoning, and Cayenne Pepper are the only spices you will need.
What to do:
Get everything for your toppings assembled except for the avocado. If you feel confident it won't brown I suppose you could dice it at this step but I generally wait a bit so that the maximum amount of deliciousness is achieved. I used little ramekins for this for ease of clean up and also because food presents nicely in these and I wanted the guests to want to eat. We had spoons for everything so that no one had to get their hands dirty or share their germs with the rest of our guests. I'm sure my mother, the one who instilled germaphobe tendencies in me and is herself a confessed germaphobe/nurse, will be thrilled to hear this.
Heat the coconut oil up in a pan on high or medium high heat. One really great thing about coconut oil is that it can fry things at high temperatures without burning; I definitely take advantage of this. I also like that the coconut oil lends another hint of background sweetness to the final product. While the oil heats up, mince up the garlic and cut the onions into thin half moons.
These don't need to be perfect because they go through another chop at the end, but its nice if they are relatively even for cooking time. Add these to the coconut oil in the pan and cook until the garlic starts to brown.
Drop in your defrosted shrimp (even if its not 100 percent defrosted that's ok, it will just take longer to cook) and your salt, pepper, cajun seasoning, and cayenne pepper.Cook until the shrimp is springy and cooked through. With the red shrimp it will be harder to tell doneness but the white part will be more opaque and the pink part will get a bit more red. This can be even harder to tell with the amount of spice you have on so be sure to see if the shrimp is curled up, that is the springiness level you want. It took these shrimp about 5 minutes to get to the appropriate springiness level.
Remove shrimp mixture from pan in small batches, rough chop, and transfer to a bowl. Be sure to save as much of the juice from the pan as possible and pour it over the top of the chopped shrimp. It is just better this way, trust me.
Finally, dice up the avocado and transfer to the ramekin and heat up your tortillas and taco shells to desired warmth.
To assemble the tacos I usually put a bit of the cheese on first, then the shrimp, and then I go crazy with the other toppings. I prefer the soft tortillas whether they are corn or wheat. These will require the extra step of folding before you get to the good part.
Enjoy the way the spice melds with the other stuff to create a delicious, if not authentic, Mexican food experience!
1 lb Frozen Uncooked Shrimp
1 Small Onion, thinly sliced
3 or 4 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 or 3 tablespoons Coconut Oil, for frying
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
1/2 cup Cheese
1 Avocado, diced
1/4 cup Sour Cream or Plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup Salsa
1/2 cup Shredded Lettuce
1 pkg Tortillas, heated
1. Prepare ramekins with sour cream, salsa, shredded lettuce, and cheese.
2. Heat coconut oil in a pan on high heat
3. Mince garlic and slice onion. Add to pan and cook until garlic begins to brown.
4. Add shrimp, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, and cayenne pepper to the pan. Stir continuously until shrimp is springy and cooked through.
5. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a cutting board in small batches. Rough chop and transfer to a bowl for serving. Pour the liquid from the pan on top of the shrimp once all of it has been chopped.
6. Heat tortillas and dice avocado. Transfer diced avocado to a ramekin for serving.
7. Assemble taco and enjoy!