Archive for the 'Mexican' Category

Busy

It’s been a rather busy week in our house. Lots of errands over the weekend, three dinners out planned for this week. For now, a glimpse of a favorite meal from this last week, eaten at La Mexicana Bakery and Taqueria.

Quesadilla
Chicken Quesadilla – flour tortilla, marinated then grilled chicken, and cheese

Torta
Carnitas Torta – marinated and fried carnitas, lettuce, tomato, lime-flavored mayonaisse, black beans on fresh-made bread

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Camarones a la Vinagreta (Shrimp with Lime Dressing)

Camarones a la Vinagreta (Shrimp with Lime Dressing)
Last Saturday, we had a party where we served Mexican food.  I even invested in a tortilla press and tried my hand at making fresh tortillas.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts to prepare in advance, I was too busy and too tired to take pictures to generate a blog post.

But armed with a new tortilla maker and some left over ingredients, I wanted to try to make more Mexican food.  I haven’t made a lot of Mexican food previously.  When we lived in California, Mexican food was omnipresent.  They even served passable tacos at the corporate cafeteria.  In northern Virginia, good tacos are few and far between.

Given that there were shrimp in the freezer, shrimp tacos seemed a wise choice.  These tacos are very easy to make.  The cooking of the shrimp is somewhat unconventional but it does work.  Given the flavoring of the tacos, they would be just as good, if not better, served either at room temperature or chilled on a hot day.

Camarones a la Vinagreta (Shrimp with Lime Dressing)
Adapted from Authentic Mexican 20th Anniversary Ed: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico

For the shrimp:
1 quart water
1 lime, halved
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
3 bay leaves
12 oz. shell-on shrimp

For the dressing:

1/2 small red onion, coarsely diced
1 medium tomato, cored and diced
1 1/2 tbsp dice cilantro
2 1/2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
salt

  1. In a sauce pan, combine the water, black pepper, allspice, and bay leaves.  Squeeze the limes and add them to the sauce pan.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Uncover the sauce pan, turn the heat to high, add the shrimp, cover, and bring to a boil.
  3. Remove the sauce pan from the heat and drain off the liquid.  Keep the pan covered and set aside for 15 minutes.
  4. Peel the shrimp and cut them into 1/2″ pieces.
  5. Combine the red onion, tomato, and cilantro in a bow with the shrimp.
  6. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and vegetable oil.  Pour over the shrimp mixture.
  7. Serve the shrimp mixture in tortillas.

Serves 2-3.

Carnitas Caseras (Home Cooked Carnitas)

Carnitas Tacos

It’s been awhile.  It’s been quite awhile.  I could blame it on a number of things but suffice to say that I’m back.

You may remember that we recently moved from southern California to northern Virginia. Unsurprisingly, northern Virginia isn’t exactly a mecca for Mexican food.  My personal Mexican food of choice is carnitas and, unfortunately, the closest I’ve found so far in our new home is at Chipotle.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

So I decided to make my own.  These aren’t the more common carnitas found at taco stands around L.A.  These aren’t cooked for the same length of time so they don’t easily get the shredded texture of taqueria carnitas.

Instead, they are rather quickly simmered in milk before cooking the liquid off.  They’re reminiscent of an Italian recipe where pork is slowly cooked with milk.

They are quite flavorful; almost intense, as Angela described it, but at the same time mild.  The salsa (in the pictures) almost overpowered the flavor of the carnitas and I omitted it for the remainder of my tacos.  The only downside for me was that the texture was different than I was expecting.  Something that shreds more easily would work better on tacos.

These cook quickly.  Quick enough for a week night.  They go well with homemade tortilla chips and salsa.  The leftovers work well in quesadillas.

Salsa Mexicana

Carnitas Caseras (Home Cooked Carnitas)
Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking

4 tbsp lard or vegetable oil
3 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
salt
4 sprigs of fresh marjoram
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns, crushed
1 orange, cut into eights
1 cup milk

  1. Dry the pork with paper towels and season with salt.
  2. Heat the lard in a wide, heavy pan until hot.  Add the pork and fry until lightly golden, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the onions and cook until the meat is well browned, about 8 minutes more.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat until the meat is cooked through and tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, and increase the heat, cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed (there will still be a lot of fat remaining).
  6. Remove the meat from the pot and let rest for 5 minutes.
  7. Slice the meat into small pieces and serve with corn tortillas.

Serves 6 to 8.

Tacos de Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (Shrimp Tacos)

Shrimp Tacos

This recipe comes as a bit of a request. I felt a bit strange making it as we have a good and cheap taqueria nearby but at least they don’t serve shrimp tacos.  I did have some mediocre shrimp tacos the other day so I really wasn’t expecting much from this recipe.

And how wrong I was.  This may have been the best shrimp I’ve ever had (I’m debating whether or not it’s better than Gamberi alla Cannavota).  The shrimp were well browned and took on the flavorings of the aromatics perfectly.

Cooking Shrimp for Tacos

I’m going to segue here a bit and do a product anti-endorsement: whatever you do, don’t buy Whole Food’s Organic Corn Tortillas.  We tried to use them to make tacos and they were nearly inedible.  They were some of the worst corn tortillas I’ve ever eaten.

On the plus side, the shrimp were good enough to eat without a tortilla wrapper.  In fact, the shrimp in this recipe would be good enough served over rice of some sort.

The only modification to the recipe I made was to add a step to brine the shrimp.  It means that it takes slightly longer for the whole recipe (which is already very short) but it really helps with the flavor and texture of the shrimp.

This has to be one of the best bang-for-your effort recipes I’ve seen in awhile.  The shrimp are excellent and there’s very little work needed to make this.  It’s also rather fast.  It does create a bit of smoke however.

Ingedients for Shrimp Tacos

Tacos de Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (Shrimp Tacos)
Adapted from Dona Tomas: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
4 cups ice
1 1/2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and split lengthwise
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
1 jalapeño, sliced thinly
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
16 corn tortillas
1 lime (for serving)

  1. Bring the water, salt, and sugar to a boil over high heat.  Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl.   Add the ice.
  2. When the ice has melted, add the shrimp and brine for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, remove the shrimp from the bowl and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  3. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat.  When the pan is hot, add the oil and the onions.  Stir the onions several times, then add the shrimp.
  4. Cook the shrimp for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until they start to turn red.
  5. Add the butter, jalapeño, and garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Remove from the heat.  Adjust the seasoning to taste and stir in the parsley.
  7. Place the tortillas in stacks of two on plates.  Divide the shrimp among the tortillas.
  8. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.