All we wanted was something tasty, different, and relatively easy to make, as well as moderately light. During the process, we may have come up with a new kitchen hack. When the local seafood market had a nice deal on royal red shrimp (already cleaned!), we got two pounds, knowing we could make a few dishes over the weekend with them. First up: shrimp tacos.
Make the slaw
Roast the shrimp
Stuff the tacos
Chipotle Pineapple Habanero Red Cabbage Slaw
½ head red cabbage, shredded
1 habanero, seeded, finely diced
3 scallions (both white and green parts), thinly-sliced
20 oz pineapple chunks, drained
1 cup mayo
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
Salt to taste
I don’t quite don a radiation suit when I work with habaneros, but close enough. I make sure that I use gloves from the time I pull it off of the plant through cleaning up everything they’ve touched. It was the second ingredient into the bowl, after the cabbage. I used only one for this recipe, and it was quite enough. Habaneros are more about flavor than heat, but you have to respect the burn they can bring. The rest of the slaw was simply mixing all the ingredients together and giving the flavors time to set in. Since these pineapples happened to be canned, I poured them out into a strainer and let them drain for a good long time. We ended up with about ¾ cup of juice, which we later put to use.
One of the things you find out with slaw after it sits is that it gives up a fair amount of liquid, sometimes making your slaw wetter than you want. As I was assembling the elements, it struck me that we could drain it while it sat and save the juice to do something else with. Due to the raw volume of the slaw, I used our lettuce spinner; I had to drain the liquid out a few times over the hour or so it sat, so if I want to do the same in the future, I’ll rig up something more appropriate. It turned out great, because the slaw stayed crispy and didn’t make the tacos sloppy. The slaw sat about 2 hours before we used it.
We roasted about one pound of shrimp in a few tablespoons of avocado oil and a teaspoon each of chipotle and cayenne. We wanted to bring out the flavors in the slaw without over-seasoning the shrimp. Roasting the shrimp—these were 16-20 counts—took about 11 minutes at 400F.
For sauces, we did two things. First, we simply used that juice from the slaw. It was thick enough, although if I were to use it again in the future, I might thicken it a little more. The other sauce was a simple crème fraiche, cilantro, and lime mixture. Crème fraiche seems a little awkward to work with, but it becomes just liquid enough at room temperature to be a good drizzle—but there’s no getting it into a squeeze bottle until much later. If you need it in a bottle right away, use cream, half and half, or milk to make it more liquid.
Diced avocado and roasted corn became the finishing touches on the tacos. We cut the kernels off of two fresh heads of corn, and tucked them into the toaster oven until they were nice and brown—almost nutty in both color in texture.
The dish came together extremely well. We both preferred the crème fraiche as a topping to the slaw juice. The latter added more heat, but the creaminess of the former brought all the other elements together while providing a cooling element for the aggressive heat of the slaw. It’s the direct we’ll choose to go when we make the dish in the future. We discussed in the future cutting the shrimp into smaller pieces to simply make the tacos easier to manage. Having them whole presents well, but is a little trickier to wrap up the tortilla and eat. As I was assembling tacos, Gretchyn put that pineapple juice to use making drinks.
Blackberry Pineapple Side Car
About 8 fresh blackberries, muddled
2 oz. Cognac
1.5 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz Cointreau
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
She muddled the blackberries in a cocktail shaker, added in the rest of the ingredients, added ice, shook, and strained, serving it up with a garnish of fresh basil from the garden. The drink’s sweetness did its job of complementing the pineapple as well as contrasting with the heat. The first version didn’t have the sugared rim; the second did. It didn’t need the additional sweetness to go with the dish. If I were pairing it, I’d leave off the sugar. Serving it as a straight cocktail, leaving on the sugar is fine.
Cooking together doesn’t just provide us with an activity for spending time with each other, it creates a meeting of the minds as we plan, create, modify, and execute a dish. The joint activity offers us the opportunity to challenge ourselves and each other to keep creating better and better food.