The more I visit Mexico City, the more I find to love about the magical city. Mexico has long been a favorite travel destination. The people are warm and friendly, the cities and landscape beautiful and diverse, and the food and culture, my absolute favorite. But, it wasn’t until I recently walked the historic area of Polanco that I truly understood the allure of the nation’s capital – its FOOD! From street vendors selling tlayudas, flautas, and quesadillas at the park, to quaint sidewalk cafes and swanky restaurants, Mexico City has a spectacular and diverse menu. And, we pretty much tried to eat it all.
One memorable stop was a cevicheria, a restaurant specializing in ceviche. It’s one of Sean’s favorite fish preparations and it didn’t disappoint. I, however, tend to lean towards fish tacos. Our server suggested an off-menu taco trio of smoked marlin, grilled mahi-mahi and a black bean and shrimp combo, all served with avocado and a delicious variety of salsas.
Like picking a favorite child, ranking the tacos would be impossible, but the black bean and shrimp combo was so unique, I attempted to recreate it at home.
Because many of you have requested easy weeknight dinners, I’ve used a few shortcuts so dinner will be ready in less than 30 minutes.
For one, I don’t make my own tortillas. Sorry, mom, but times have changed. I went with organic, non-GMO corn tortillas from La Tortilla Factory, because you can’t have fish on flour. You just can’t. I’ve tried my share and found La Tortilla Factory tortillas to be the most authentic and homemade-tasting brand on the market.
Next, I went with Better Bean’s “Uncanny Refried Black Beans,” a staple in our fridge. As much as I love cooking a large big pot of homemade beans, Better Bean’s fresh bean varieties are not just convenient but their simple ingredients and flavors prove there are healthy and delicious “processed” foods, i.e. there’s nothing wrong with shortcuts. Find them in the refrigerated section of your grocer (Whole Foods stocks them). If you can’t find Better Beans, you can also go with canned refried beans with no lard.
I picked up a pound of fresh shrimp at my favorite seafood market in San Antonio, Groomer’s Seafood, and while I typically make my own spice blend with a a combination of salt, pepper, chile powder, paprika, cumin and a touch of cayenne, I spotted a shrimp seasoning from Chef Paul Prudhomme and it didn’t disappoint (available online here).
Ready in minutes, the shrimp turned out perfectly when cooked on a hot cast iron skillet for a couple of minutes per side (turn only once).
Finally, the pièce de la resistancia (you see what I did here?) isn’t the avocado (although that’s a must), but a homemade toasted chile de árbol salsa – spicy and delicious, this is one you’ll want to save and use on everything. All you need are tomatillos, dried chile de árbol peppers, garlic, and a little olive oil.
Simply quarter the tomatillos and cook until browned in a skillet.
Remove and cook the chiles.
Blend with the garlic and the water. And enjoy.
From start to finish, you’ll have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. And you’ll have enough salsa to enjoy on everything from chips and tacos to eggs, grilled veggies and chicken.
- 1. 5 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 teaspoons shrimp seasoning blend or combination of ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon cumin, and ⅛-1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Better Beans "uncanny refried black beans" or 1 16-ounce can refried black beans without lard
- 8-12 corn tortillas
- 2 small or 1 large avocado
- pat shrimp dry and place in a bowl and top with enough seasoning to lightly coat well. set aside
- heat black beans
- heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high and lightly coat with oil.
- Cook shrimp 3-4 mins on one side then turn over for 1-2 minutes until pink. Do not overcook.
- Meanwhile, heat tortillas and spread with black beans. Add shrimp, avocado, and 2-3 shrimp per taco. Top with toasted arbol pepper salsa.
- ½ teaspoon olive oil
- 3-4 tomatillos, quartered
- 3-4 dried chile de árbol
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup water
- break the chiles in half and tap on plate or cutting board to knock out the seeds. remove stem. discard stem and seeds.
- heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. add tomatillos, and cook on medium to medium-high about 5-7 minutes until browned. remove from pan.
- add chiles and cook about 3-4 minutes. remove from pan.
- combine chiles, tomatillos, garlic, salt and water in a blender and blend on high.
- serve immediately or refrigerate up to one week.