Tacos in Winter: Suck On That, Alice Waters
(A Note on the Seasonal Appropriateness of Today’s Recipe)
Back when I was first starting to write for Food Junta, Claire politely talked me out of some beef stew recipe on a summer day when the mercury was edging up towards 100 on both coasts. Now, in a similar example of climatic cluelessness, here I am with a recipe that evokes the sun-bleached salt-flats of Baja, and that should roll off the WordPress during the coldest, darkest, wettest, and generally miserablest week of the winter. Brilliant. What’s the secret to comedy, folks? Never mind, I’ll get to that later.* Whatever, I threw some cabbage on top at the end, that shit’s in season, right? Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little culinary escapism: a plate of shrimp tacos just might transport you to brighter, warmer climes. And considering the massive amount of flames involved in this particular high-proof recipe, I just might mean that literally.
A party last weekend has left my apartment stocked with a veritable frat-president’s-ransom in cheap booze. I’m not complaining, mind you, but I’m now faced with an awful lot of bottles in my liquor cabinet which I don’t really see myself tossing back outside of a party situation. So while “Have Another Party” is the obvious Stage 1 in my apartment’s Long Term Strategic Booze Reduction Plan (the LTS-BRP for you policy wonks), the equally important Stage 2 is to figure out how to cook with the damn stuff.
I’ve pretty much given up hope on the Jagermeister, and Natties Ice and Light might still be useful for oh, I don’t know, boiling pasta? Washing dishes? But it was Jose Cuervo first who stood out from the pack as a promising culinary candidate. I know what you’re thinking: Cooking with tequila? Holy Malcolm Lowry, Batman! Are you mad? Tequila may rank high on lists of Least Popular Things to Drink on May 6th, or Reasons I’m Buying Limes at the Supermarket, but it hardly seems like something you would want to keep near a stove. Yet even the most rudimentary airport-layover-margarita-factory teaches us that tequila and lime go together like Gallagher and watermelons. So then shouldn’t tequila work with any recipe involving lime? Is this an arbitrary leap of logic? Probably! But who cares? I threw caution to the wind this week, and the result is one more empty bottle and a plate of tequila-shrimp tacos.
Before the fireworks start you will need the following:
1 ½ lb. shrimp
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lime juice
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup tequila
1 green onion, sliced
¾ cup sour cream – If you can find it, use Mexican crema instead; it is neither as sour and nor as thick as good ol’ ‘Merican sour cream, but is more like crème fraiche.
Emergency contact information
Shredded green cabbage
1 dozen corn tortillas
Green tomatillo salsa – Frontera Grill is a great brand, and my main man Barack Obama totally has my back on this one.
1) Peel the raw shrimp and toss in a bowl with lime juice, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and chili pepper.
2) Melt butter in a 12” skillet, then add shrimp and cook at med-high for 3-5 minutes.
3) When all of the shrimp have turned pink turn the heat down to low and then, only then, pour in tequila. Now here comes the fun part:
4) Turn the heat back up to medium-high, strike a match and carefully lower it into the pan at the edge until your dinner ignites. If there are innocent bystanders present you’ll want them to stand clear, and you’ll also want to hit the lights so you can blow their effing minds with the awesome spectacle in your frying pan. Shake your pan over the burner until all the alcohol ignites and the flames die out, and keep in mind that this may take a couple minutes because half a cup is just under three shots of liquor if I’m counting right. Once the fire dies down and the National Guard has been recalled, keep simmering for a couple of minutes to let the sauce thicken.
4) Remove from heat, add ¾ cup sour cream (or crema) and stir until it is mixed in and the sauce is an appropriately shrimp-like shade of pink.
5) Pour into a bowl, top with sliced green onion, and figure out how to serve.
This is the point in the recipe where I looked down and realized that you really do end up with a lot of sauce, and this could be great over rice. But if, like me, you have your heart set on tacos, I would suggest proceeding thusly:
Nuke the tortillas (heating tortillas being one of the few things a microwave does well), and then fill one with 3-4 shrimp. Top the shrimp with salsa, a few strips of thinly sliced green cabbage, maybe a squeeze of lime, maybe another spoonful of your creamy shrimp tequila sauce, and then tell your friends once again to stand back: forget the fire, after so much painstaking assembly the most dangerous place in America for someone to be standing will be between you and your taco.
* Sorry, what? Oh right uh… TIMING! HA! Wait I totally blew that one, let me start over again…