By Nick Roumel
Among my mother’s many endearing qualities was mispronouncing words in a way that nobody else did. Steel mill was “Still meal.” Hummus was “hum, moose!” And taco was “tucko.”
Not that we ever had tuckos growing up in Pittsburgh. I probably didn’t eat anything approximating Mexican food until moving to Ann Arbor, that hotbed of Latino culture. But I grew to appreciate its nuances, probably starting with a visit to New Mexico back in the day. We went to a small café in the Sandia mountains, eating skirt steaks with green chiles and enchiladas, and downing them with a cheap beer that nobody had ever heard of - “Corona.” Who put lime in their beer?!
I never suspected, back then, that I could someday turn on my TV at any hour of the day to see beautiful millennials, flouncing on the beach, pulling iced Coronas from the cooler, clinking bottles, but never, ever drinking it. Because that would be an illegal commercial, and might very well corrupt minors.
Nothing illegal about this shrimp taco recipe, which shows off the light and bright side of southwestern cuisine, and pulls together in a snap. It’s a derivation of a version from food blogger Lalya Atik.
I skipped the sour cream and didn’t miss it, substituting a hot bean and corn chipotle pepper salsa made by “Esch Road” near Sleeping Bear National Seashore, which - with climate change and all - will soon feature beautiful millennials enjoying their spring breaks, while southern coastal cities disappear under the rising waters.
So enjoy your shrimp tuckos while you can, bucko.
20 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
squeeze of lime
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 green onions, chipped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from half a lime
6 small flour tortillas (corn tortillas can also be used)
Optional sour cream topping:
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
One jar Esch Road Hot Bean and Corn Chipotle Salsa
1. Prepare shrimp: In a medium bowl whisk together the 1 ½ TBS olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Add shrimp and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 24 hours.
2. Make salsa while shrimp is marinating: Combine tomato, avocado, jalapeno, salt, pepper, lime juice, and cilantro in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. (If not using right away, place a piece of plastic wrap inside the bowl and directly over salsa to
prevent discoloration and refrigerate.)
3. If using sour cream: Mix sour cream with cilantro and lime juice in a small bowl; set aside.
4. Cook shrimp: Heat a large heavy-duty or cast iron skillet on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the additional TBS of olive oil and shrimp. Cook shrimp on medium-high heat until pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and finish with a squeeze of lime.
5. To finish: Warm tortillas in oven, or grill tortillas on stovetop over flame until lightly charred. Spoon avocado salsa generously over warm tortillas, then top with 3 shrimp and drizzle with Esch Road salsa and/or sour cream sauce.
6. Serve: Garnish with a lime wedge. Accompany tacos with fresh vegetables, rice, sweet potato fries, and/or a tart and vinegary salad, and cold beverages with lots more lime wedges.
7. Before eating: Offer a toast to Mom and everyone else who made you what you are. Here’s looking at you, bucko.
Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.