Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Garlic Cilantro Lime Slaw

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Shrimp Tacos on the Blackstone

Yeah, we missed National Taco Day…so what? Who came up with all of these food days anyways? Was there a committee of stuffy old men smelling of Old Spice and Icy Hot sitting around a large boardroom table? Or was it a bunch of young hipsters sipping on grande mocha soy frappe carmel latte espresso agave sugar coffee drinks while vaping their brains out and blowing huge clouds? Who cares? I’ll eat what I want, when I want and last night I wanted some shrimp tacos!! And more importantly I wanted to cook on my new Blackstone griddle, dammit!!

I usually prefer my shrimp tacos (and fish tacos) fried, but that’s not exactly healthy nor would it allow me to use my griddle. A quick search with my Google-fu skills found me this recipe over at Pinch of Yum and it sounded like it would fit the bill. This is our version cooked on the griddle  with a few modifications.

Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Garlic Cilantro Lime Slaw

For the Garlic Cilantro Lime Sauce

  • 1/4 cup of oil
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • juice of two limes
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of light sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Shrimp Tacos

  • 1 to 1.5 lbs of shrimp, peeled with tail removed (we used 1.25 lbs of 21-25 count)
  • 1 tsp each of chili powder, cumin and chicken fajita seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 green cabbage, shredded
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 avocado
  • Queso Fresco, Cotija or Feta cheese
  • lime wedges for serving
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Warm up the tortillas until you begin to smell corn and they have become pliable. Only takes a minute or so.

To make the sauce, toss all the ingredients in a food processer and pulse until smooth. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss some of the sauce (not all of it!!) with the cabbage. It should resemble a coleslaw. This can be done right before hand, but we did ours about 2 hours ahead of time and placed in the fridge. The rest of the sauce can be used on your tacos.

Heat your griddle medium to medium high heat. Warm up the tortillas for a minute or so until you notice a corn smell and they have become pliable. Wrap in foil to keep warm. Even better would be one of those tortilla holders they have at Mexican restaurants. We, however, don’t have one of those so why the hell am I even bringing it up? I digress…

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Toss the shrimp on the griddle

When the tortillas are done, squirt some oil on the griddle and add a tbsp of butter. Then throw on the shrimp and cook 4-5 minutes or until done.

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Done!!

To serve the tacos, spread a spoonful of the sauce on a tortilla, top with a few shrimp, coleslaw, cheese and avocado and maybe some more sauce and squeeze a slice of lime on top.

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Who needs a National Taco Day to enjoy these shrimp tacos? Eat them whenever the hell you feel like it.

I gotta say, the more I use this griddle, the more I am liking it. It’s just so fun. And it heats up quick. A whole lot quicker than the Egg. Sure, we could have grilled these shrimp and they would have been just as good, but that would have taken longer. From the time I stepped outside and fired up the griddle, to the time I shut it off and went inside was less than 10 minutes!! That’s a fast cook!!

The tacos were fantastic. I tried one of the shrimp by itself, and I hafta say it had some heat. But when you add the slaw and the cheese and the sauce, it balances that heat perfectly. These are definitely going into the rotation, especially on nights when a fast cook is needed to get the food on the table.

Fajita Chicken Wings with a Creamy Chipotle Dipping Sauce

     Some of you may know that yesterday was National Chicken Wing Day (7/29/14). If you lived in my house, you would have known for sure. One of my favorite food holidays of the year. What’s not to love? Crispy, bite sized food? You’re expected to use your hands? People don’t frown down on you if you get a bit messy? And most often come with some kind of tasty dipping sauce? Check, check and check. Sounds like the perfect food group to me.

     I’m always on the look out for a new wing recipe. This time, I used a little influence from growing up in South Texas and a nod to Chris over at NibbleMeThis to come up with my version of fajita chicken wings and a creamy chipotle dipping sauce. A little fusion of Tex-Mex and chicken wings.

Fajita Chicken Wings for National Chicken Wing Day
Fajita Chicken Wings for National Chicken Wing Day

     While Chris’s recipe is a little more in depth with more ingredients and a marinade process, I kept mine fairly simple by just using Fiesta Chicken Fajita Seasoning for two reasons. I like the flavor and I find that marinades can prevent the skin on chicken wings from getting crispy.

Ingredients

  • chicken wings
  • Fiesta Chicken Fajita Seasoning (or any brand you may prefer)
  • cornstarch (optional)
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 chipotle peppers, chopped + 1 tsp juice
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • juice of half a lemon or lime
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • dash of ancho chile pepper
  • pinch of sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chicken Fajita Seasoning and my lil devil bottle opener
Chicken Fajita Seasoning and my lil devil bottle opener

Directions

  1. Lightly dust your chicken wings with corn starch (optional – this will help the skin get crispy as it cooks). Then dust the wings with fajita seasoning. Arrange the wings in a single layer on a platter and cookie sheet and place in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 12 hours. This process will allow the wings to air dry and will also help them crisp up.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set the bowl in the fridge and allow flavors to marry for an hour or two.

    Creamy chipotle dipping sauce
    Creamy chipotle dipping sauce
  3. Preheat your grill to 400F. If using a Kamado style grill, set it up for a raised direct cook. If using other grills, set it up for a two zone cook (one side with the coals or burners on and one side without) so that you can shuffle the wings back and forth in case of flare ups.
  4. Grill wings for 30 minutes, turning two or three times to ensure even cooking. Keep an eye out for flare ups and move wings to the unlit side of the grill if necessary.
  5. Wings are safe to eat at 165F, but I usually like to take mine to 175-180 to get that crispy skin. Not to worry. The wings will not dry out.
Wings cooking at 400F raised direct. Almost done.
Wings cooking at 400F raised direct. Almost done.

     I went back and forth on what to serve with my wings. On the one hand, I wanted to keep with the Tex-Mex thing and thought about going with Mexican rice. Maybe some boracho beans. But that would require using a utensil and would counter balance part of the fun of wings…eating with your hands. Or I could just go with one of my other favorite foods…Tater Tots!! Yep, tater tots won out.

Wings and tots makes me happy.
Wings and tots makes me happy.

     It’s always interesting to switch things up on wing night. That first bite you expect to get some heat. These wings don’t bring the heat, though. They bring those flavors that you have come to expect from fajitas. Cumin, garlic, onion and a hint of citrus. The Chipotle Dipping Sauce doesn’t serve the same purpose as the normal bleu cheese or ranch that you get with Buffalo Wings. It’s not there to cool off your mouth from the heat from the wings. Most people enjoy their fajitas with sour cream. This sauce gives you that sour cream along with the smokiness of the chipotle peppers and some heat from the cayenne and ancho. Completely optional, but it adds that extra dimension to the wings that really set them off.

Demolished
Demolished

     Next time you are thinking about wings, try thinking outside the box. How could other cultures influence your wings and take them to a whole nother playing field? You might surprise yourself. You just might come up with a recipe that replaces Buffalo Wings as your favorite type of wings.

 

Taco Soup

Is there any food more comforting than a bowl of soup?
Is there any food more comforting than a bowl of soup?

     Soups. Not something we’ve tackled a lot of here on this blog. In fact, this is only the second one we’ve done. Not really sure why that is. Soups are generally easy, cheap and comforting. So maybe we’ll try and do some more this year as we move from summer into fall and then winter. Maybe we’ll even cook some on the Big Green Egg. Or maybe we won’t. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

     This is one of those super easy soups to make and chances are that you have most of the ingredients on hand in your pantry already. Heck, the most labor intensive part is dicing an onion so I know you can handle it. Quick to throw together and only needs to simmer for a minimum of an hour. Perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of ground beef
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 can pinto beans (14.5 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can hominy (14.5 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes (14.5 oz), Mexican style if available
  • 1 can Rotel (10oz)
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (dry)
  • 2 1/2 cups water or more
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil or canola oil

Directions

  1. Heat a large pot on high. Add in 1 tbsp oil and the diced onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the 2 lbs of ground beef and cook until brown. Drain off fat.
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. (If your stewed tomatoes are in large chunks, you may want to cut them down into smaller portions before adding to the soup.)
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for at least one hour.
Soup's on!!
Soup’s on!!

     Quick and easy and packs a punch of flavor. Perfect for a chilly Sunday afternoon…not that we’ve had one of those yet this year. But they are coming, or so the weather man promises.

     Use the ingredients above as a guide and vary the soup on what you have on hand in your pantry and fridge. Ground turkey instead of ground beef? That’ll work. No hominy, but you have corn? That works, too. Black beans or kidney beans instead of pinto beans? Go for it. Got other vegetables you want to try? Sure thing, but don’t get too crazy of you’ll wind up with some kind of Mexican vegetable soup concoction. Nothing wrong with that, but this here is taco soup.

     And don’t forget the garnishes. Think about tacos and what works well with them. Try adding shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream, avocado and/or lime juice to liven up the party. Be creative and have fun with it. And if you have a little bit of extra energy remaining after preparing this “labor intensive” soup, cornbread goes nicely with it on the side. At least, I think so.

Hatch Chile Pork Stew

Hatch Pork Chile Stew
Hatch Pork Chile Stew

     We did Hatch Chile Salsa and Hatch Chile Lime Wings which were sort of out of the box, so I decided that I would try something a little more traditional for my third cook involving these chilies. What’s more traditional than green-chile pork? No really…that wasn’t a rhetorical question. I’m really looking for answers. I’ve been to New Mexico a time or two, but in all honesty, I can’t seem to recall if I’ve had green-chile pork. I assume I must have, but I’ve got no memory of it, so if this varies from traditional, I apologize in advance, but I am NOT going to apologize for how tasty this turned out.

Roasting the Hatch Chiles
Roasting the Hatch Chiles

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder, majority of fat trimmed and cubed into 1″ pieces
  • 10 Hatch Chilies (we used 5 mild and 5 hot, adjust to your tastes)
  • 3 Serrano peppers
  • 1.5 lbs tomatillos, husk removed
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 5 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano (Mexican if you can find it)
  • canola or vegetable oil
  • Optional garnishes: sour cream, cheese, limes, cilantro, tortilla strips and tortillas
Browning the pork
Browning the pork

Directions

Roasting the Hatch Chilies and Serranos

  1. Preheat your grill (or broiler) to 500F
  2. Roast Hatch chilies and serrano peppers until blackened on all sides (10-15 minutes)
  3. Remove peppers from the grill and place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to cool. This process with help steam the peppers and make peeling the skins off easier.
  4. Once the chilies have cooled enough to handle, remove the skins, cut off the stems, slice open and lay flat. Using a knife, scrape out the seeds and veins and discard. Dice the chilies and set aside.
  5. For the serranos, do not bother to remove the skins, but cut off the stem and remove the veins and seeds. Roughly chop and add to a food processor
Sauteeing the onions
sauteing the onions

Making the Stew

  1. Bring one quart of water and one bouillon cube to boil.
  2. Remove the husks from the tomatillos.
  3. Add the tomatillos and boil for 5 minutes or until tender.
  4. Drain the tomatillos, reserving 1.5 cups of the water. Add tomatillos to the food processor, along with the reserved water, the Serrano peppers and the leaves from one bunch of cilantro, discarding stems (reserving some of the cilantro for garnish)
  5. Pulse the mixture until your desired consistency is met. Set aside for later.
  6. Season the cubed pork shoulder with salt and pepper.
  7. Heat a large dutch oven on medium high and add a thin layer of canola or vegetable oil until almost smoking.
  8. Add a small batch of the pork and sear for a few minutes to brown. Stir and sear on all sides. Remove and continue until all the pork has been browned.
  9. Add the diced onions and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the minced garlic and cook 2 more minutes or until the onions are tender.
  10. Return the pork to the dutch oven as well as the diced chilies and the pureed mixture. Bring to a boil.
  11. From here, you have three options, the way I see it.  A) Take your dutch oven and place it on your smoker or grill at 350 and allow to cook. This will infuse a small amount of smoke to your stew. If using a Kamado style grill, you want to cook it indirectly. You can use a place setter legs up and then set the dutch oven on top of spacers on top of the pate setter. If you have an Adjustable Rig from the Ceramic Grill store, place it on your Egg with the ceramic stone on the bottom level and then set the dutch oven on top of spacers on top the stone (this was the method I used) or B) You could place it in your oven at 350 or C) you could reduce the heat on your stove to a simmer.
  12. Every recipe I read, varied on how long to allow the stew to simmer. Anywhere from 20 minutes (that one used pork loin, not shoulder) to an hour and all the way up to three hours. I say cook it until the pork is tender. I think an hour would probably have been fine. I let mine simmer for an hour and forty minutes. Keep an eye on the liquid. If it appears to be drying out, add more water or chicken broth or even some Mexican beer if you have some on hand.
  13. When ready, garnish with cilantro and serve with slices of lime, sour cream, tortilla strips and/or tortillas.
Everybody into the pool!
Everybody into the pool!

     You maybe wondering why I wasn’t very specific on how long it took to simmer. Honestly, Mrs. G went out of town this weekend and I was waiting on her to get home. So I just let it continue to simmer.  It was probably ready to eat after an hour, but the longer it was on the Egg, the more the flavors would meld and it would absorb some of the mesquite smoke from the wood chunks I added. Just one more added dimension of flavor for this stew.

Onto the Egg at 350 with mesquite chips for smoke
Onto the Egg at 350 with mesquite chips for smoke

     Not to mention, it was a wonderful evening to sit outside. The weather was not too hot. Perfect for sipping on a cold beverage and watching the dogs protect our yard from those pesky squirrels.

Hatch Chile Pork Stew with a cold Negra Modelo
Hatch Chile Pork Stew with an ice cold beer

     While the stew is simmering along, if you’ve got the energy and some corn tortillas lying around, cut them into strips and quickly fry them up. They make a great accompaniment to the stew. And if you need help choosing a beverage, might I suggest an ice cold Negra Modelo? It pairs well with this spiciness of this dish. I recommend you drink it out of a glass and not in the bottle.

Garnish with cheese, sour cream, cilantro, lime and tortilla strips if desired
Garnish with cheese, sour cream, cilantro, lime and tortilla strips if desired

     Of the three dishes I have now prepared with Hatch Chilies, I’ve got to say that this is my favorite. Or the wings. Let’s call it a tie, but if you are looking for what I imagine to be a more traditional use, then this is the one you want. The pork was extremely tender and the stew was bursting full of flavors from the  chilies and peppers and tomatillos. I thought it had a nice level of heat to it, but let me tell you that the next day when I had some for leftovers, it had really ramped up. That’s not a problem for me, but I don’t know how you tolerate heat. Just beware that it gets hotter the longer it sits. I think Mrs. G would have been happier had I left out one or two of the serranos.

     As far as traditional goes, I don’t know if it was or was not. I saw a bunch of recipes that included things like potatoes, tomatoes, corn and/or hominy, among other things. I tried to keep it simple in order to let the flavor of the chilies stand out and I think that I accomplished that with this recipe. But hey…feel free to add whatever other ingredients your heart so desires. I’m fine with that.

     One of the employees said that they are winding down Hatch Chile season. Tomorrow will be the last day, so this will probably be my last Hatch Chile post for a while. I did buy about three pounds yesterday, and I’ll roast them today, clean them and freeze them to use throughout the year, but I’ll be moving on to other things…unless I have one more in me. We’ll just have to wait and see. 😉

Hatch Chile Salsa

Hatch Chile Salsa
Hatch Chile Salsa

     It’s that time of year again. Hatch Chiles have begun arriving in stores. At least, here in Dallas they have started popping up. If you don’t know if stores in your area have them, try checking out Central Market or Whole Foods to start out with. Central Market goes crazy with them. You can find everything from tamales to crab cakes to sausage to hamburgers made with them. They put them in tortillas and marinades and dips and queso. You can even pick up some Hatch Chile Chocolate gelato (which I was a little disappointed in. I thought it would pack a bit more heat). If Central Market makes it, I can almost guarantee they have a version with Hatch in it right now.

Cast of characters for my salsa
Cast of characters for my salsa

     I’m not a big Hatch Chile snob. In fact, I’ve never cooked with them before. What little I do know about them boils down to this: Hatch Chiles are to the chile world what champagne is to sparkling wine. Let me explain a bit. All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne.You can make sparkling wine anywhere, but for it to be called champagne, it must be from Champagne, France. Same with these peppers. For them to be called Hatch Chiles, they must be grown in Hatch, New Mexico. Anywhere else, and they just aren’t Hatch Chiles. If they are grown in nearby Mesilla, then they are Mesilla chiles. Anaheim peppers? Taken from Hatch chile seeds and grown in Anaheim, Ca.

     So what’s the big deal about the Hatch valley? Some say its the volcanic soil. Some say its the climate, the hot days and cool nights. Does it really matter that much? I’m not sure, to me it sounds like one helluva marketing ploy. So why bother with them? Mrs. G loves Hatch chiles and quite honestly, I just got curious about them this year. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And at $0.99 a lb, why not?

Roasting my veggies for the salsa
Roasting my veggies for the salsa

     For my first use of Hatch chiles, I figured I’d start out with a simple salsa to get the feel…uh…I mean taste for them. I’ve made plenty of salsas before by charring the veggies on the grill first. I thought this would give me an understanding of the taste and heat of the chiles I was dealing with before I moved on to more complex dishes.

Ingredients

  • 3 Hatch Chiles (hot variety)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
  • 1-2 limes, cut in half
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for salsa charred up
Ingredients for salsa charred up

Directions

  1. Setup your grill for a direct cook and preheat to 500F (or set your oven to broil)
  2. Roast the first five ingredients for 2-3 minutes, flip and continue the process until the vegetables are charred on all sides, roughly ten to fifteen minutes. For the limes, grill cut side down for 2-3 minutes if desired.
  3. Remove veggies from grill. Place chiles in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Remove the outer skin from the tomatoes, onions and garlic and toss in a food processor, as well as the cilantro. Squeeze the juice from one lime over the veggies.
  5. Once the chiles have cooled, remove the outer skin (it should peel right off). Cut off the stem end of the chiles and slice open one side. Open the chiles up so that they are laying flat and scrape out the veins and the seed (reserving the seeds if you like your salsa extra spicy). Toss the chiles into the food processor.
  6. Give the food processor a couple of quick pulses until it has reached your desired consistency.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding salt and pepper and/or more lime juice or cilantro. If it’s not spicy enough, add in some of the reserved seeds.
  8. The salsa can be eaten warm, or chilled. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will marry and develop.
Hatch Chile Salsa ready to eat
Hatch Chile Salsa ready to eat

     You may have noticed that the recipe calls for 3 Hatch Chiles and yet the pictures show I roasted 5. What’s up with that? I wasn’t quite sure what kind of punch these chiles would pack. This is our basic recipe for salsa, but we usually use jalapenos or whatever other peppers we have on hand. Never having used Hatch Chiles, I had no idea how many it would take, so I erred on the side of caution and went ahead and roasted extra. Better to have too many than not enough (not to mention my research has indicated that the chiles freeze better if they are already roasted).

Hatch Chile Salsa served up with tortilla chips
Hatch Chile Salsa served up with tortilla chips

     So was it worth it? Is the hype and fuss all blown out of proportion? I’m still on the fence about that one. The salsa was chocked full of flavors and had a nice complexity. I’m a big fan of charring the veggies for my salsa, always have been. It adds another dimension of flavor, a nice underlying smokey taste, but not to strong to overwhelm the other flavors. The Hatch chiles, while not super hot, offered up a new and distinctive heat than what I am used to. It produced a burn in a different part of my mouth than say a jalapeno. There was no back of the throat burn, more of a front of the tongue. It was nowhere near as hot as a jalapeno either, nor did the heat linger around half as long. It was there, and then it was gone. It was actually quite nice. I think Hatch Chiles would make a nice substitute for those who like milder salsas.

     To evaluate the taste and heat of the Hatch Chiles, I’m not sure salsa was the best idea. With so many other flavors for it to compete with, I guess its kind of hard to pick out and isolate that one flavor by itself. But that is OK, because this was a great salsa by itself, as well as with the tacos we had that didn’t get pictured. It would be great on eggs or breakfast tacos or anything else you like to put salsa on.

     And as for the Hatch Chile…well I’ve already got an idea for dinner Friday night using it in a marinade and a sauce and there is still plenty of time to take advantage of them before the season is over. I wonder if I should stockpile some? Roast them and freeze them to use throughout the year? Hmmm…the gears are moving…

     So are you a Hatch Chile fanatic? Do you go crazy over them in August? Do you roast them and stockpile them for the rest of the year? What’s your favorite Hatch Chile recipes? I’d love to hear about them.