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Shrimp tacos with Tex-Mex slaw, guacamole

 Another week has passed us by as we trudge through the murky waters of Autumn.  As the temperature drops, there are only a few more weeks to get in the fresh and vibrant ‘summery’ dishes that remind us of vacations in Mexico or elsewhere in the world.
In our American Regional Cuisine class this week, we visited Texas and cooked our way through Tex-Mex cuisine.  We saw foods varying from chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and black eye peas to pork flautas and caldo de res.  Finishing the meal off with coffee flan and Mexican wedding cookies, it was easy to sate the body and soul with food from the Lone Star State.
It was easy to fall in love with the food on the table and quite frankly this class has exceeded my expectations as they can produce a monstrous amount of food in less than three hours, and do every week.
As I walked up to the buffet for final inspection, the first platter stood out for its color and simple design.  The Shrimp Tacos, a build-it-yourself symphony of annatto-laced shrimp, fresh Tex-Mex slaw, guacamole, crema fresca, Texas-style pico de gallo with partially cooked components and salsa verde spoke to me.
Rob and Stephanie were the students responsible for this family-style treat, and the only thing missing was a tall Golden Margarita on the rocks, or perhaps a Pacifico Cerveza.
As an instructor, it is my job to taste every single dish that goes on the buffet, something that can get quite challenging when you hit 45 and want to stay somewhat healthy for the kids.  But, it’s my job, and someone must bear the brunt.
Raising my first taco to my face, I smell the aromas mingling together.  The various sauces and slaw add amazing character to the taco.  Then I taste the combination of ingredients and realize that I must have some Latin blood in me somewhere; for some reason it is a food that brings me great joy.
In the Spring semester, “Foods of the Americas” is offered and it is my favorite class to teach.  It makes me proud to see students discovering more authentic Mexican food than we may perceive as such in the dtates.  And no, Taco Bell is not indicative of foods you would buy in restaurants in Oaxaca, Mazatlan or Cabo San Lucas.
On this day of Tex-Mex cuisine, I have to take a step back and enjoy the diversity that Texas has to offer.  With its proximity to Mexico, ideal location on the Gulf and influences from many cultures including the cattle culture, it is no wonder that these three tables full of food were so satisfying.
I’m especially glad that I was able to eat another round of shrimp tacos before the impending winter.  It’s going to be a cold one.
Shrimp Tacos
Serves 6; 3 tacos per person
36 each 16/20 shrimp, whole
4 cloves fresh garlic
juice and zest of 2 limes
3 tbsp. EV olive oil
1 packet Goya Sazón
Salt and pepper to taste
Tex-Mex Slaw (recipe follows)
Crema fresca, as needed
Guacamole (recipe follows)
Salsa Verde
Pico de Gallo (recipe follows)
Lime wedges, as needed
18 ea. corn tortillas
Peel and devein the shrimp
Toss them in juice, zest, oil and Goya seasoning packet, which includes achiote.  Be careful here since achiote (annatto) stains everything!
Let marinate for 1-2 hours
Make remaining dishes (recipes below) and just before service get a cast iron pan smoking hot and cook the shrimp very quickly with a small amount of the marinade
Serve hot with corn tortillas and side dishes and let your guests make tacos as they wish
Pulp from 3 avocados
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/4 red onion, finely diced 
1 Tbsp. cilantro, minced 
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 ea.  jalapeno, seeded and minced 
2 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced 
S&P to taste

Combine scooped avocado pulp with lime juice to keep the avocado from browning
Drain, and reserve the lime juice
Mash avocado and add spices
Add onions, jalapeno, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic
Adjust flavor with reserved lime juice, salt and pepper
Tex-Mex Slaw

3 cups green cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1 c. red cabbage, shredded
Juice and zest of 2 limes
Cilantro to taste
1/4 ea. White onion
1 ea. Clove fresh garlic
2 tomatillo, husked
Sherry vinegar, to taste
Sugar, to taste
1 Tbsp. Light oil, such as grape seed

Place the cabbages and carrots in a bowl
In a blender, puree the remaining ingredients and adjust the taste of the dressing to your taste
Pour the dressing over the slaw 30 minutes before service
Serve chilled
Tex-Mex style Pico de Gallo

EV olive oil, as needed
2 ea. Garlic cloves, minced
1 c. Red onion, finely diced
1 ea. Jalapeno, finely minced
Cilantro, to taste, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lime
S&P to taste
Heat the oil and add onion, cooking for 1 minute
Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook for another minute and remove from heat
Let this mixture cool and add remaining ingredients.  Serve chilled or at room temperature