To say I have been having fun cooking in Mexico is a huge understatement. I have been looking forward to this since the day we decided to move here. Because I learned to cook while we lived in Europe I didn’t have access to authentic Mexican ingredients and therefore was limited to the Mexican cooking I could do. There was so much that I missed and that I wanted to try, to see, smell and taste. And now my only problem is that there aren’t enough meal times in one day to try all of these amazing new and dear to my heart foods.
One of the ingredients that were nearly impossible to come by, when I lived in Europe, were fresh and dried Mexican chile peppers. Now I can walk into any of the grocery stores in town and follow my nose to the scent of chiles. Every store has bountiful mounds of these aromatic pods that give Mexican cuisine so much of its flavour. It is pure heaven standing over them, taking in a deep breath and selecting what I want — be it fresh or dried chiles.
These beautiful guajillo peppers are one of the first dried chiles I have bought. Have any of you ever cooked with guajillos? They are very popular in Mexican cuisine and can be used in mole, tamales, salsa and enchilada recipes. Guajillos, as you can see, have a deep dark red colour and have a slight fruity smell. When toasted, I find that, their flavour becomes a complex taste with slight smoky tones. Since their flesh is a bit tough, nearly all guajillo recipes you’ll find will require soaking them in warm water before using — but we won’t be doing that in this recipe. These chiles are considered to be moderately spicy, but if you don’t eat much spicy food then you might want to start off using less of them. Also I urge you to wear gloves when handling them because I’ve had chile burns on my fingers from them on several occasions, not pleasant.
Since guajillos have a fruitiness to them, I knew they would pair wonderfully with shrimp. If shrimps are not available to you then chicken, turkey or even pork can be substituted. To give the tacos a little bit more of a spicy and fruity touch I decided to top them with a jalapeño and pineapple salsa. Well, let’s get to the recipe!
- 500 gm or 1 lb. raw-shelled shrimp
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 dried guajillo chiles*
- fine sea salt to taste, I used about ½ tsp.
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil of choice
- corn tortillas
- about 1 cup full of fresh diced pineapple**
- 2-3 fresh or raw jalapeños, finely chopped (for milder salsa remove seeds and discard)
- juice from half a lime
- handful of chopped cilantro leaves and a bit of the upper stems
- fine sea salt, to taste
- Make the salsa first so that the flavours have time to develop and so it can be served chilled. Also I’d like to note that the salsa can easily be adjust to your personal taste by varying the amount of each ingredient. Prepare the salsa, taste and adjust if necessary.
- In a large bowl gently mix all of the salsa ingredients together until well combined. Taste and adjust if necessary, place in refrigerator until ready to use. The salsa will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.
- Clean the shrimp and set aside. Over medium heat, warm comal or griddle or frying pan, once hot place the dried guajillo peppers and peeled garlic on to it. Gently keep turning the peppers until they have darkened or toasted on all sides — be careful not to burn them. The garlic too should be cooked until it begins to char on all sides. Place the toasted peppers and charred garlic cloves aside to cool.
- You’ll want to put on a pair of latex or kitchen gloves for this next step. Once the chiles have cooled enough to handle, remove the stem and cut each of them in half. Gently pull away the vein and remove the seeds, discard them. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the peppers into strips, some areas may crumble and that’s okay. Next mince the garlic and heat the olive oil, once warm sauté the garlic and chile strips for about 2 minutes then add the shrimp and sprinkle in the salt. Cook until the shrimp have turned pink and are firm. The water content from the shrimp will help create a small amount of liquid that will distribute the pepper’s colour throughout the shrimp.
- Right before serving remove the salsa from the refrigerator and warm up the tortillas. Place some shrimps on each tortilla and top with, or serve the salsa on the side. Enjoy!
*If guajillos are not available to you then I suggest using any dried chile that is available. The taste will be different but still spicy.
**This salsa will work best with fresh pineapple, the recipe has not been tested using canned. For best results use a sweet, dark yellow pineapple variety.
These tacos are a scrumptious and filling meal that won’t break your healthy eating New Year’s resolution. Shrimp are quite low in calories and so are the rest of the ingredients used.
So how did they taste? Wonderful! The spicy and smokiness of the shrimps topped with the fruity and spicy salsa was a fantastic combination. Definitely a meal to make on busy nights or when you want a taste of Mexico in every bite. Go on make the tacos and let me know how much you liked them.;)