Here on DALS, veteran readers might have guessed by now, I’ve attempted to solve a whole range of dinner quandaries, from the quick-and-dirty meals you need in your arsenal on a Tuesday night, to the turkey you need in the center of the table on Thanksgiving. Amazingly, though, in the nearly 950 (!) posts I’ve written here, I’ve never once addressed this most pressing of head-scratchers: What do you make when one of your daughter’s oldest closest friends, the one your daughter thinks of as a cousin, the one who you all only see once or twice a year…comes to dinner?
Apparently it wasn’t in any way a quandary for my daughter.
“Fried shrimp tacos,” Abby said very matter-of-factly when I posed the question. “With mango salsa.”
I am proud that she’s read two books in two weeks, but I think I was more proud of her for nailing the menu choice. “That is exactly what we’ll make,” I told her. “Thank you.”
We never fry fish. We never fry anything, which is why her idea felt a little more celebratory than a Taco Tuesday kind of taco. (Remember, it doesn’t take much in my house for something to qualify as “celebratory.”) But the solution to the problem was not without its own special micro-problems such as: Since we don’t fry, we don’t have any frying gear. And neither did my sister, whose Long Island house I was cooking in. There was no deep-fry thermometer, no deep fryer, no deep hefty pot. Not to be deterred though, I dug up a deep-sided frying pan, which was not ideal in the splattering department, but it got the job done. (I’d recommend a Dutch Oven if you find yourself similarly unprepared, which worked last year when we attempted French fries.) Here’s how the whole thing came together:
Step 1: Make Mango Salsa
Combine all of the following in a small bowl and chill in advance to let the flavors mingle.
1 cup mango, diced (from about one large mango)
1 1/4 cups chopped grape tomatoes (or the best tomatoes you can find)
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, minced (or scallion if you don’t have red onion)
juice from half a juicy lime
a few dashes of hot sauce or Sriracha
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Step 2: Assemble Other Toppings
Such as, Shredded napa cabbage, diced or sliced avocado, radishes
Step 3: Make Battered Shrimp
vegetable oil, a lot
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined, cleaned
Batter used in this fried fish recipe (or look for tempura mix in Asian specialty stores that are made with a mix of regular flour and rice flour and follow those instructions)
Over medium-high heat, heat about two inches of vegetable oil in a Dutch Oven (or a wok or a deep-sided skillet if you have no other choice). After about five minutes, drop a tiny bit of batter into the oil. It should sizzle enthusiastically but not spit. Using your fingers, dip shrimp into batter, let excess drip off, and drop into skillet. Repeat with three or four more shrimp (You do not want to crowd the pan), flipping once after about 30 seconds. After they’ve cooked for a little over a minute, total, remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining shrimp until you’ve cooked them all.
Step 4: Heat Tortillas
Warm 8-10 corn tortillas wrapped in foil in a 375° oven or heat them briefly over the burner of a gas stove or grill.
Step 5: Eat
Place shrimp, salsa, assorted toppings, and tortillas on the dinner table and have diners serve themselves.