There's a restaurant and bar in my neighborhood that offers the most delicious shrimp tacos I've ever tasted. They are slightly charred, a little spicy, and served with a rich and garlicky aioli. I found myself having a hankering for them last week, and somehow have still been obsessing about them all the while.
It seems to be the trend, that when I get these incessant and slightly neurotic notions about a food item, that it's my subconscious telling me that it's time to write a recipe to share with you. I'm going to go with it, because, well, so far, so good.
In my version of the tacos, I wanted to play up the garlic aspect, play down the charring, and opt for tender and succulent bite-sized shrimp that snap when you bite into them. I also wanted to switch out the mayonnaise aioli for a really fresh and summery topping, of which the obvious answer was a salsa.
There are two key elements to this recipe: 1. Pasting the garlic, and 2. Quickly cooking the shrimp in a nice, HOT pan so as to not over cook them. The result is nice & tender rather than chewy.
Pasting garlic is a great way to soften its flavor and texture. This technique is especially great for marinades, dressings, or any preparation that requires the use of raw garlic. Here's how: Smash a clove of garlic on a cutting board, and remove the peel. Run a knife through the garlic to roughly chop, and then sprinkle a pinch of salt on top. Drag the flat of your knife across the smashed garlic, applying pressure to continue crushing. Repeat this process until the garlic is softened and slightly creamy.
Garlicky Shrimp Tacos with Strawberry Salsa
- 3/4 lb. raw shrimp (size 41/50), peeled & deveined
- 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed
- 3 garlic cloves, pasted with salt
- 1/2 tbs. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder
- 2 Tbs. water
- 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for cooking
- 1 tsp. corn starch dissolved in 1/2 tsp. water
- Salt and pepper
- Optional garnishes: avocado slices, shredded cabbage, lime wedges
1. In a small bowl, whisk together pasted garlic, sugar, spices, water, lime juice and 1 Tbs. olive oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Place the shrimp into a plastic zip bag, and pour the marinade over top. Seal the bag tightly and allow to marinate for 30-60 minutes. Before cooking, remove shrimp from marinade.
2. Heat about 1 Tbs. olive oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When pan is hot, and oil is fragrant, toss in the shrimp and cook until both sides are pink and center is opaque, about 3-5 minutes.
3. When the shrimp is almost cooked through, stir in the cornstarch and water mixture and bring to a simmer with the rest of the liquid in the pan.
4. To serve, place a spoonful of garlic shrimp into a warmed corn tortilla. Top with Strawberry Salsa, and other optional garnishes.
- 6-8 strawberries, small dice
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 Stalks green onion, thinly sliced
- 1 lime, for juice
- 2 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside for 20 minutes for flavors to meld.