Utopian biloxi shrimp tacos recipe

Published May 28, 2010 9:29PM (EDT)


For tacos:

  • 1/2 small head of cabbage, shredded (preferably red. It's prettier and better for you!)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled (American wild-caught, please)
  • 8 corn tortillas (for these I like the lightness of a single tortilla per taco)
  • vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Sriracha or other chili sauce, to taste
  • fish sauce or soy sauce, to taste
  • sugar

For marinated radish and carrot:

  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Generous pinch kosher salt (or smaller pinch table salt)
  • 1/2 cup daikon or red radish, cut into thin (1/8-inch) strip
  • 1/2 cup carrot, cut into thin (1/8-inch) strips

Other garnishes:

  • Cilantro, roughly chopped, to taste
  • 1 avocado, cut into 8 or 16 wedges, lightly tossed with lime juice and salt
  • Jalapeno, thinly sliced, to taste, optional
  • Sriracha chili sauce, to taste, optional
  • 3 tablespoons toasted and crumbled pecans, optional
  • Lime wedges


  1. Marinate vegetables: Whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt until dissolved. Toss with vegetables, and let it all get friendly for at least 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. This can be made up to a few days ahead, before the vegetables start to lose their crunch.
  2. Brine the shrimp: Fill a bowl with enough cold water to cover shrimp (but don't add the shrimp yet). Add salt, enough to make it taste like seawater. Then add about a quarter that amount of sugar, just enough to help balance the flavor of the salt a little. Smash the garlic cloves but good, and add them too. Add the shrimp, and keep in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Yes, you're brining something that's lived in seawater its entire life. But brining shrimp is amazing -- it gives them a snappy texture, and turns their flavor from conventional TV to Hi-Def. Besides, don't you want them to feel at home before you sear the hell out of them and eat them?
  3. Saute the cabbage: Get a large, heavy saute pan ripping hot over high heat, and add enough oil just to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is just starting to smoke, add the cabbage; it's OK to let it mound a bit, but don't go crazy and have so much cabbage you can't stir or toss it without half of it falling out of the pan. Cook in batches if you need. Anyway, don't touch it for about half a minute while the bottom sears and caramelizes. When you get a little color, start tossing or stirring, and season with a couple pinches of salt (it's OK to leave it a little bland at this point). Cook, stirring or tossing, until cabbage wilts, but still has a little crunch left. Season to taste with a few drops or squirts of chili sauce and fish sauce or soy sauce, toss in pan until the fish sauce or soy sauce are aromatic, and remove to a bowl.
  4. Heat the tortillas: Preheat your oven (or even a toaster oven) to the lowest heat. Heat a large cast iron or other heavy pan over medium heat, and warm the tortillas one at time (or two, if they'll both fit without overlapping). Flip them after half a minute or so. You just want them warmed up and pliable; don't let them heat too long or they'll start to get hard. Keep them warm on a plate in the oven.
  5. Cook the shrimp: Drain the shrimp well from the brine, and thoroughly pat them dry with paper towel. You want them really dry. Their days in the water are over, man. Season with pepper. Your pan should still be hot from the tortillas. Bump the heat to high and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the shrimp in one layer, giving each poor devil a little bit of room between itself and the next shrimp. Don't touch them while they sear. When the entire bottom half of the shrimp have turned pink, take a look at the color you're getting. If it's a nice golden, flip the shrimp and finish cooking on the other side. Don't overcook them -- when they're pink all the way through and feel firm when you poke them with your finger, they're done. Sometimes you'll end up cooking them most of the way on one side while waiting for that little bit of browning; that's OK. Don't worry about browning both sides if you might overcook them.
  6. Assemble the tacos: It goes like this: Tortilla; mound of cabbage; avocado slices; chili sauce if using; a few shrimp; marinated vegetables; jalapeño slices if using; sprinkle of pecans, if using; cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, and imagine an ideal future.


By Francis Lam

Francis Lam is Features Editor at Gilt Taste, provides color commentary for the Cooking Channel show Food(ography), and tweets at @francis_lam.

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