Thursday, April 28, 2016

Birthday Taco Dinner

For my Birthday I decided I just wanted to hang out and have some tacos. Doesn't that sound relaxing? And tasty! Mom and I took those special ingredients from our shopping trip to the Super Mercado and turned them into a fantastic Birthday Taco Dinner. She found the menu in a cookbook from America's Test Kitchen called The Best Mexican Recipes. She chose Lentil and Chorizo Soup, Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Slaw and Hibiscus Tea. We just took our time and followed the recipes for the most part; making only minor adjustments. We started with the tea, then the soup, finishing with the tacos just before dinner time. It was pretty easy and we enjoyed talking while we cooked.

The soup recipe probably had the most steps. But some of the steps were new techniques for me. The recipe started by brining the lentils in warm salted water. This was the secret to making the lentils keep their shape in the soup. The other step that made a big difference is that they cooked the chorizo in the casing. Which really helped to make the chorizo easy to slice at the end. The soup was delicious, it had great flavor and texture. I loved the smoky flavor, all the veg and the bright vinegar to finish. Very good! I will definitely make this soup again.

Lentil and Chorizo Soup
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Serves 6 to 8


1 lb. brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. Mexican-style chorizo sausage, pricked with fork several times
1 onion, chopped fine
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
2 Tbsp. ancho chile powder
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
7 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, plus extra for garnish


Place lentils and 2 teaspoons salt in heatproof container. Cover with 4 cups boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to plate. Reduce heat to low and add onion, carrots, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to fat left in pot. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft but not brown, 15 to 20 minutes. If vegetables begin to brown, add 1 tablespoon water to pot.

Stir in chile powder, garlic, cumin, and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in water, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to simmer. Add lentils, browned chorizo with any accumulated juices and bay leaves, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Discard bay leaves. Transfer chorizo to cutting board, let cool slightly, then halve lengthwise and slice 1/4 inch thick. Stir chorizo into soup and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro. Season with salt, pepper, and extra vinegar to taste. Serve.

The Tacos were great too. What I loved was the combination of the sweet jicama orange slaw, the spicy shrimp and the crema. I L-O-V-E-D the crema! That was a big take away, there is a big difference between Mexican crema and sour cream. Crema is much more complex. It is a little sweeter and even richer than sour cream. I think I will use it more often now. We did decide we prefer flour tortillas instead of the corn the recipe called for. The corn tortilla just over powered the delicate flavors of the taco ingredients. All you could taste was the corn. The flour tortillas was great with everything, you could taste all the ingredients. It really was a great taco.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Slaw
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes about 8 tacos


1 lb. jicama, julienned or shredded
1 tsp. orange zest plus 1/3 cup juice
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. oregano, minced
1-1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 lbs. extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
8 flour tortillas (or corn, I like flour better)
1 cup Mexican crema
Lime wedges


Soak four wood skewers in water for 30 minutes or more.

Combine jicama, orange zest and juice, onion, cilantro, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whisk oil, oregano, chile powder, garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels, add to spice mixture, and toss to coat. Thread shrimp onto four skewers.

Preheat grill on high heat for 10 minutes. Place shrimp on grill and cook (covered) until lightly charred on first side, about 4 minutes. Flip shrimp, and cook until opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer to platter and cover with aluminum foil.

Grill tortillas, turning as needed, until warm and soft, about 30 seconds; wrap tightly in foil to keep soft.

Slide shrimp off skewers onto cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Serve with tortillas, jicama slaw, crema, and lime wedges.

Hibiscus tea was something we tried at a local restaurant a few months ago. Ki Mexico serves a great Hibiscus Tea, it is so delicious. It is sweet, tangy and has a hint of spice. So when we decided we wanted to make it at home I wanted to add some spice. So we took a little from two recipes, one from the ATK cookbook and the other this recipe for Agua de Jamaica. It turned out so good! This is something I will do many many more times. The hibiscus is naturally tart and fruity so when you steep it with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and allspice; it adds sweetness and warmth. Such a perfectly refreshing drink with a beautiful red color.

Hibiscus Tea
Makes 2 quarts


2 quarts water
3/4 cup sugar (or more if you like it sweet)
2 oz. (about 1-3/4 cups) dried hibiscus flowers
1/2 cinnamon stick
3 slices of fresh ginger
4 Allspice berries
Lime wedges to serve


Put 4 cups of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Add cinnamon, ginger slices, and allspice berries. Heat until boiling and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the dried hibiscus flowers.

Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain into a pitcher and discard the used hibiscus flowers, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice berries.

Add remaining 4 cups of water to the tea, and chill. Serve over ice with a wedge of lime.

Linking to:
The Lazy Gastronome - Taco Tuesday Blog Hop


  1. Everything looks delicious! I'm a fan of lentils and tacos (and lentils in tacos, for that matter), so this meal looks perfect.
    Blessings, Leigh

  2. Mmmm - my birthday is next month - I'll have to share this post with my hubby!! Thanks for sharing on the Taco Tuesday blog hop!

    1. Happy Birthday! It won't be long now. I hope you get plenty of tacos to celebrate!


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