Simply Delicious Ways to Elevate Your Taco Tuesdays
Tacos are the perfect meal that always seem to be a crowd pleaser. They also make a fantastic quick, weeknight family dinner. In our first Taco Tuesday blog we discussed what we believe makes a great taco and how to create the freshest corn tortillas.
A great taco includes layers of the freshest ingredients that perfectly play off each other’s flavors and textures. This usually includes a protein or vegetable, toppings, and sauces. But let us not forget about the sometimes-overlooked tortilla that is critical to making a composed, delicious bite. A soft but ever-so-slightly crisp corn tortilla makes any taco complete.
Fresh Seafood Please
I grew up in Vermont and loved the distinct change in seasons, with fall being my favorite because of the way the mountains come alive as the red and sugar maple tree leaves transform into their magnificent colors. Living in South Louisiana, the four seasons are crawfish, shrimp, crab, and oyster!
Eating fresh seafood is an absolute must in our household and we are not shy about taking advantage of all the incredible fresh ingredients at our fingertips. Summertime is synonymous with shrimp season, so we are always cooking a lot of fresh shrimp and searching for new and creative ways to prepare them.
Floyd is definitely happiest when we have a freezer full of shrimp!
Fire up the Grill
When you think of summertime, you also think about backyard grilling with family and friends. It is all about easy meals with tons of flavor, less pots to clean and most importantly here in the South, not heating up the kitchen.
Who doesn’t love fried fish and fried shrimp tacos? We absolutely do! However, we have found that grilled salmon and grilled shrimp tacos are just as delicious and are quick and easy dishes to prepare even on a busy weeknight. They are also a healthier option for taco nights.
Grilled Spicy Shrimp Tacos
We believe a spicy bite goes so well with sweet, juicy shrimp. That is why we continually go back to grilled spicy shrimp tacos. We prefer using chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to add flavor and a little bit of heat to the shrimp, instead of just using dried spices. You can adjust the amount of chipotle pepper and sauce to your taste. We have found that adding a cilantro-lime red cabbage slaw or an avocado lime crema to your tacos works well to cool the spice and compliment the shrimp.
Our biggest tip when grilling shrimp is to be careful to not to overcook it. On a hot grill they only need a few minutes per side to cook. When the shrimp are done, they turn a lite pink color and interestingly, start to curl up into a more closed c shape. Check out the Grilled Spicy Shrimp Taco recipe.
Fresh gulf fish is also plentiful and delicious in Louisiana, so we love making grilled redfish and speckled trout tacos. However, there is something about the creamy, sweet, and slightly smoky flavor of grilled salmon that makes it our favorite fish taco.
We like purchasing wild caught sockeye salmon fillets in the two-pound pack, so we always have some in the freezer. This is especially important when you are feeding teenagers!
Our super simple and quick recipe lets the salmon flavor shine. The salmon fillets are seared on the grill quickly on both sides and then put into a foil “boat” pack to simmer in a wonderful butter, lemon, and white wine sauce. Check out the Grilled Salmon Tacos recipe.
Meaning “little meats,” carnitas are delicious bits of pork that are a staple of Mexican cuisine. We think of it as a Mexican pulled pork. Cooking the pork in the slow cooker with just the right spices is a home run every time and makes the cooking process super simple.
This juicy and flavor-packed dish is a great weeknight meal because it cooks all day in the slow cooker. We have learned to embrace our slow cooker to save time and money (on natural gas) when we know flavors will soar if cooked slowly over several hours.
Most traditional Pork Carnitas recipes use pork shoulder (pork butt), but we prefer using pork tenderloin because it is a leaner cut of meat and a healthier option, with plenty of flavor for an authentic taco experience.
We purchase a whole pork tenderloin (8-10 pounds) and cut it up into individual dinner portions (2 pounds) to get the best quality, at a great price. That way you always have a wonderful dinner option in the freezer.
Before putting the pork in the slow cooker, we season it well and then sear the pork on all four sides quickly (about 20-30 seconds per side) in a hot Dutch oven with olive oil. We sear the pork until it has a nice caramelized brown crust, to seal in the rich flavors. Once you remove the pork, don’t forget to deglaze the pan with some chick broth, so all those delicious bits and juices are added to the slow cooker for extra flavor.
We love our Dutch oven and cook everything in it, stewed beans, one pot casseroles, gumbo, étouffée, homemade bread in the oven, you name it. We mourned the loss of Floyd’s multi-generation seasoned Dutch oven from Hurricane Katrina. If that pot could have talked, the stories it would have shared of all the good times had by the Kyle and Walton families cooking and eating delicious food together. Lord only knows how many gumbos were cooked and shared from that pot through the years.
Knowing how much we loved our Dutch oven, my aunt and grandmother quickly replaced it with a new one that we use every day and will pass down to our son one day. We would love to hear about some of your favorite kitchen family heirlooms that hold many memories.
Another important tip when cooking Pork Carnitas in the slow cooker is to transfer the cooked pork into an oven safe dish and finish it in the oven on broil for about five minutes to achieve the golden-brown crispiness that we all love. Check out the full Pork Carnitas Tacos Recipe.
In our next blog in this Taco Tuesday Series, we’ll share some of our favorite homemade sauces and toppings for your tacos that add extra fresh flavors and a nice crunch.