Monday, September 7, 2015

11. Rum-Marinated Shrimp Tacos with Mango-Black Bean Salsa and Crispy Plantain Strips


Now that I've passed the ten-recipe mark, I'm trying to get in all of the proteins (and other typical taco fillings) that I haven't used yet.  Obviously, with 100 recipes, I'm going to have to have some repeats.  Before I do another beef or tempeh taco, though, I want to make sure that I've featured all of the most obvious taco fillings.

Shrimp!  I haven't done shrimp yet.  That's just a shame . . .

This afternoon, I found these small(ish), peeled, and deveined shrimp at our local Fry's store.  Yes.  I'm OK with skipping a few steps for smaller shrimp!  They were wild-caught too, which was great.  I tend to avoid farmed shrimp.

I think I may have been having flashbacks to some wonderful shrimp tacos in Key West when I came up with this recipe.  Sigh.  I loved Key West.  We went in January 2013 and had so much fun!  We had the balcony of all balconies which was literally 90 miles from Cuba.

I just . . . can't even . . . 


Anyway, I've had kind of a fantasy-based love affair with Cuba ever since I got to play Sarah in a 2010 production of the musical Guys and Dolls.  It was so much fun.  I was 35.  It was (seriously) my LAST chance to play Sarah.  Ha ha.  

If you don't know the story, Sarah takes a spur-of-the-moment flight to Havana with Sky Masterson and learns how to let her hair down.  The show was a ton of fun, and I invited a few of my closest show friends over for a Cuban-themed dinner party after the show wrapped.  I didn't know too much about Cuban cooking, but I'm a cookbook junkie, so I added a few to my collection to prepare for the dinner party.  The top book in the following photo has been a favorite ever since:

The other book is an actual souvenir that I got from that Key West trip a few years ago.  It's also pretty solid.  The only reason I haven't used it more is because the cookbook situation around here is completely out of control.

I didn't copy any recipes out of either of these books, but I definitely used them for inspiration.  The shrimp and mango salsa were loose adaptations of flavors that I discovered in my reading (and cooking).

The plantains were my interpretation of arañitas, or plantain spiders.  I had made them before, and they were delicious, but I didn't think they would quite work in their original version.  They are little clumps of shredded, fried green plantains.  I wanted them to stay separate (kind of like shoestring potatoes,) so I changed the preparation method a bit.

It's Labor Day weekend.  I don't have to work tomorrow.  So . . . I also made mojitos.  I like them on the strong and not-so-sweet side.  I posted the recipe here.  If you're like me, check it out!

Here's the taco recipe!  :)

Shrimp Tacos with Mango-Black Bean Salsa and Crispy Plantain Strips

Serves 3-4 (about 12-16 small tacos), with extra salsa and plantain strips


For the shrimp:

About 20 oz. medium shrimp, peeled, deveined (if desired) and tails removed
1/3 cup light rum
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp. Pickapeppa sauce (or Worcestershire)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp. butter

For the mango-black bean salsa:

1 large ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 14.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1 serrano chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 medium clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the crispy plantain strips :

2 large green plantains
Canola (or other neutral-flavored) oil for frying
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

12 to 16 small (street-taco size) corn tortillas

1.  Prepare the shrimp:  Whisk together rum, garlic, 1 tbsp. olive oil, lime juice, Pickapeppa sauce, cumin, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the shrimp.  Cover and refrigerate, allowing to marinate for 60 to 90 minutes.

2.  Make the salsa:  Combine all of the salsa ingredients in a medium bowl.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Cover and set aside.

3.  Prepare the plantain strips:  Peel the plantains by cutting off the ends and making lengthwise cuts along the peel.  You should then be able to pull the peel off with your fingers.  It's roughly the same as a banana, but a little more difficult to peel.  Coarsely grate the plantains.  I used a food processor.

Transfer to a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.  Add canola oil to a medium skillet (about 10 inches) until a depth of about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch is reached.  Heat the oil to about 360 to 375 degrees. 

4.  Fry the plantains in batches.  Sprinkle some plantains into the hot oil and stir with a slotted (heat-proof) spoon so they don't stick together too much.  When they are golden brown, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.  Salt to taste.  Continue this process until all the plantains are cooked.  I did four batches, but they cooked so quickly that it wasn't a big deal at all.  Transfer all of the cooked plantains to a baking sheet lined with fresh paper towels.  (If you try to pull the golden-brown-stuck-to-the-spoon crispy plantain off the slotted spoon right after you're done cooking them, you'll burn your fingers.  Don't ask me how I know this.)  Keep the plantains warm in a 200 degree oven.  

5.  Prepare the tortillas:  Heat the tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, one by one, until browned but still soft, about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side.  

As the tortillas are done, stack them on a sheet of foil.  When they are all finished, wrap them in the foil.  Since the oven is already on anyway, throw the whole packet in there along with the plantains!

6.  Cook the shrimp:  Pour the shrimp into a colander, allowing the liquid to drain out of it.  Heat the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the shrimp and stir, cooking until just done, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

7.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Place several shrimp down the center of each tortilla.  Top with some of the salsa.  Finish with a sprinkle of the plantains.  Garnish with a squeeze of lime and enjoy!

We really enjoyed these, but I might try some modifications next time.

Honestly, I used the super-small street taco tortillas because I still had some leftover from my last taco recipe.  I think regular-sized corn tortillas would have been better.  The shrimp, even though they were medium-sized, were big for a taco filling.  The salsa was chunky, too.  It was easy for the pieces to fall out.  It wasn't a deal breaker, but I would have preferred a larger tortilla.

The serrano pepper that I put in the salsa was very mild.  I might try two of them next time . . . or a hotter pepper.

My husband thought the shrimp could have used more of a kick.  ???  I think he might have meant heat.  They had plenty of garlic.  I might bump up the Pickapeppa sauce to 1 tbsp. next time and add some cayenne.  They were still very flavorful, though.

There will be leftover salsa and plantains.  If the plantains are on the table, you might end up snacking on the rest of them until they are gone.  They are so good - I just thought I'd warn you!

We both agreed that, on a scale from 1-10, these tacos were a solid 8.5.  I would recommend making them.  We're just getting picky now, because the chicken tacos that I made on Friday were a 10!

It was a fun dinner.  I want to go back to Key West - and I want to visit Cuba.  As soon as it's legal.  :)

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

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