Ahhhhh, Memorial Day weekend. Start of summer, and glorious galley adventures. And what better on-board tribute to the day than to feed and float a recently retired Coast Guard Captain? While Capt. Kevin and his son Brandon were our guests of honor for the day on Night Town, Doug is still the skipper…and requested SPICY. So we whipped up some shrimp tacos with a delicious fresh roasted tomatillo salsa and — because we like to try new galley solutions — homemade flour tortillas. Ándale!
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4 cups flour
1/2 cup lard
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 medium to large shrimp per taco
Bacon grease or olive oil
Mexican-style crema or sour cream
Fresh cilantro sprig
Handful of radishes
Get your shrimp ready, which may mean “open the bag” for you, but for a Gulf Coast citizen means heads, tails and shells removed.
Ever since settling on my favorite shrimp and grits recipe, this is my go-to shrimp preparation for so many things. Just sprinkle them liberally with paprika and cayenne (or, if you don’t have those, some decent spicy seasoning…something from Caroline’s locker called “CHILI 9000” in this case), and you will saute them in a minute.
The real recipe in this post is the homemade flour tortillas. “WHO makes tortillas?!?” you might ask. Well, people with less extensive grocery availability than time…i.e. rural dwellers and long-distance cruisers. Bread products are a challenge on long passages, as keeping them remotely fresh and uncrushed can be a hassle. But flour, lard, salt and water (and time)? THAT we have or can get. Using your hands, combine the flour, salt and lard until the mixture becomes crumbly/grainy and the lard is as well distributed as you can possibly get it. Then add about a cup of water and knead it in just until the dough comes together; don’t overwork it. Cover with a moist towel (paper is fine) and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
Pull off a golf ball-sized hunk — wait, sailors don’t golf … fishing-line-bobber-sized … stop-knot-on-3/8th-inch-line-sized — and put the damp towel back over the remaining dough (keeping dough and tortillas moist, soft and warm is a recurring theme in this effort). Flatten the ball with your palm a bit.
Roll the dough out to about a 6-inch circle, or as thin as you can. Ours were maybe a little thick this go around — would have worked better for tostadas than tacos — but were quick and easy to move through the process, while withstanding a warm galley and tasting great, if a little bread-y. Brandon ate about six, but he’s a very polite young man. By the way, something smaller than a full rolling pin or wine bottle will be easier here, as you only need 6-inches of length and you can move it around in different directions to get as round a tortilla as possible. We used a metal water bottle!
Heat a griddle or two cast iron pans, one (half) over a low-medium burner and the other (half) over a medium-high burner. Caroline has this great non-stick griddle that fits over two burners and let us cheat and cook three at once. Quickly flop a rolled tortilla down on the lower-heat side of the griddle (on the left); give it about 30-45 seconds, until it has just enough integrity for you to lift it with tongs and flip it over to the hotter side, where you will give it a good 3 or 4 minutes, until it browns nicely on that underside. Flip it again on (or to) the hottest side and brown the remaining side for about a minute. The tortilla will pull up from the pan around the edges and probably begin to puff up a bit when done.
Here’s another really worthwhile investment for a taco-loving home aground or afloat — the insulated tortilla holder. A warm (even commercial, briefly-microwaved) tortilla will store in this thing for an hour without getting cold, dry or stiff. For MAKING tortillas it’s almost indispensable, since you will be rotating these things through the three-step rolling and cooking process for a while (the recipe makes about 2 dozen). It was probably an hour from the time our first tortilla came off the griddle to when we filled and served the tacos, and they were still steamy fresh. The holder is Styrofoam or sometimes straw — lightweight and unbreakable, easy to store with other and particularly breakable things gently nestled in it — and works as mentioned for commercial tortillas or even for rolls, bread, or anything else you want to keep warm and slightly airtight while cooking or at the table. You can find these at a lot of Latino markets, but also at Dollar Stores and the like in places like southern California.
Quickly sautee your shrimp — preferably in bacon grease or something similarly flavorful, but olive oil if not; we used the leftover grease from Caroline’s chorizo. The smoked pork flavor mixes with the spices and is delicious with the sweet shrimp.
Sliced leftover steak or chicken are great taco fillings for the shellfish-intolerant like Captain Doug.
Fill 2-3 tortillas for each person with 3-4 shrimp or pieces of steak/chicken each, top with salsa, crema or sour cream, and a sprig of cilantro. If you’ve gone heavy on the spice (our salsa had unseeded serannos) pass around a bowl of sliced radishes; they are the most effective antidote to pepper heat! Bienvenido al verano, Piratas!
Shrimp Tacos With Homemade Flour Tortillas
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup lard
- 2 lbs fresh shrimp (3-4 per taco)
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
- 1 cup salsa (verde preferred)
- 1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (1 sprig per taco)
- 1/2 bunch fresh radishes (optional)
- To prepare tortillas: mix flour, salt and lard with your hands until crumbly and grainy, and lard fully incorporated. Add about a cup of water, kneading in by hand, just until dough comes together, without overworking. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Pull off a golf ball-sized hunk of dough (recovering remaining dough to keep moist) and flatten slightly with your palm. Roll out to a 6" circle.
- Heat a griddle or two cast iron pans, one (half) over low-medium heat and the other over medium-high heat. Place first tortilla on cooler side for 30-45 seconds, until it is firm enough to be lifted swith tongs. Flip to hotter side for 3-4 minutes, until bottom browns in places. Flip again on hot side of the griddle to brown the other side of the tortilla, about 1-2 minutes. Tortilla is done when both sides are lightly browned in spots, edges pull away from the pan, and tortilla may puff slightly.
- Remove to a tortilla warmer (or wrap well in a slightly damp towel) while you complete cooking all tortillas.
- Shell shrimp and season with spices. Sautee quickly in grease or oil until opaque. Put 3-4 shrimp in each taco shell, top with salsa, crema, and a sprig of cilantro. Serve with radish slices, particularly if your salsa is hot, to tamp down the pepper burn!