How to Make Authentic Mexican Tacos
I am not in love with cooking. I adore baking, but cooking seems to be an entirely different beast for me. I tend to stick to simple meals, or just hope someone else will cook for me. However, after attending an incredible cooking classes in Huatulco, Mexico with Chiles & Chocolate, I was determined to re-create the meal. Most of my motivation came from the desire to eat something at least half as delicious as the feast I enjoyed after the class, but I have to admit I was partially motivated by my boyfriend, Pedro’s, joke about my cooking skills. Let’s get one thing clear people – I can cook. I just don’t like to cook.
So, instead of just logging the food class away as a delicious memory, I set out to re-create the meal and prove my boyfriend wrong all at the same time. Win-win! Here’s how the adventure went. If you want to skip to the end to get the straight-forward Mexican taco recipe, go right ahead.
Shrimp guts and other necessary evils
One of my biggest issues with cooking is my hatred of touching raw meat. I don’t even like cooked meat on bones. It grosses me out and ruins my appetite. However, I was on a mission, so I headed to a special market and bought a pound and a half of fresh shrimp. In a moment of weakness, I opted to pay 2 extra bucks to have the heads removed. Veins are one thing, but beady little shrimp eyes were just too much for me.
Because Pedro loves me and didn’t want to sit around watching me make faces, he volunteered to gut the shrimp while I did everything else. I did do a few myself though, to prove I could. It’s not difficult, you just have to slice the shrimp length-wise about halfway through and rip out the vein. Easy, but not appetizing.
Onions, Garlic and Tomatoes
While all the shrimp-gutting business was going on, I focused on chopping up lots of onions, garlic, and tomatoes. These are mixed in with the shrimp in a pan to be grilled together.
Most Mexican-style taco recipes use refried beans, but I was trying to stick to the Oaxaca style taco I made in the cooking class. In Oaxaca, black beans are mashed up and thinned out to be more of a sauce than a solid bean. We didn’t actually prepare the beans in class (the instructor took care of that before hand) but I believe they are blended and then mixed with lots of thin cream. I didn’t have the time or proper ingredients, so I just cooked the black beans with some onions, then mashed them up and mixed in a bit of sour cream. The result was more of a paste than a cream, but it was delicious.
Corn tortillas and Quesillo
These are the real star of the meal. In the cooking class, we actually cooked fresh tortillas, which I turned out to be a real pro at. However, creating the dough is pretty time consuming, and this meal was already a pretty big ordeal, so I just bought corn tortillas from a Mexican grocery store and heated them up in a frying pan.
I was also able to find some quesillo, or Oaxaca String Cheese, at that same store. The cheese doesn’t melt quite as well as the Mexican Blend mixes you might find in the grocery store, but it’s still pretty delicious.
Once the corn tortillas are heated up, I spread on a bit of the beans, stuffed them full of the shrimp mixture, added a bit of quesillo and threw them back in the frying pan to let the cheese heat up a bit. I tossed in some chapulines (roasted grasshoppers) I brought back from Huatulco as well. Yum!
See? Told you guys I could cook!
Since I don’t like cooking, I thought I might help fellow non-cookers out and write this recipe in a fun way. Enjoy.
- 1 pound shrimp
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- As much quesillo and you feel you want to eat.
First, you’ve got to remove the skin and vein from the shrimp. Focus on the smells of the nearby cheese and taco filling, because this is gross. Take a small knife, slice the shrimp lengthwise, and rip out that nasty waste-filled vein. Discard, gag, repeat. Remember, this will all be worth it!
Chop up that fresh cilantro and set it aside. It’ll make a come back later.
Take your tomatoes, onions (and even some garlic if you don’t have a date) and chop that shit up. Chop it real good.
Take your quesillo and hack a hunk off. Start pulling it apart, and make sure to sneak several pieces in your mouth as an impromptu appetizer. Once you have enough cheese for the tacos, stash it in the fridge and away from yourself. Your willpower may not be strong enough to resist the need to snack on this delicious cheese.
Take your shrimp and all your chopped up veggie delights, and toss them into a pan. Sprinkle some lime juice over the top and shake it up. Occasional stirring is great for the actual cooking process, and for making yourself look really busy and professional.
In between your super-professional stirring stints, throw corn tortillas into another pan. Flip them around and shit. Heat them up, then wrap them in a little tortilla blankie (or clean dishtowel, whatever you got).
Shove everything into the tortilla and resist the urge to chow down. The cheese awaits! retrieve your cheese and cram a couple of pieces into each taco. Put the tacos back into the pan to melt the cheese a bit. That’s it! Taco time!
As I mentioned, the cooking class didn’t actually include instructions on how to make the beans, so they aren’t in the recipe. For my tacos, I just took a can of black beans and put them in a put with some chopped onions and garlic. Once they were hot, I mashed them up and mixed in about 3-4 heaping tablespoons of sour cream.
You can also throw in things like salsa and sour cream, or grasshoppers if you are adventurous!