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“Amor y Tacos: Modern Mexican Tacos, Margaritas and Antojitos”

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo at Home

Jordan Wright
April 2010

Deborah Schneider was smitten the first time she ever sunk her teeth into a taco. “Wow! I thought it was the best thing I ever had in my life.“ For a Canadian growing up on “ham steaks with pineapple

Amor y Tacos by Deb Schneider—Executive Chef of SOL Cocina in Newport Beach

Amor y Tacos by Deb Schneider—Executive Chef of SOL Cocina in Newport Beach

rings”, it was a revelation and a call to arms.

In “Amor y Tacos”, her third and latest book on Mexican cuisine (her 2009 “Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho de la Puerta” was nominated for a James Beard award), Schneider brings her love of fresh, street-style Mexican food infused with a modern twist. “I love the immediacy of this food,“ she told me in a recent interview.

“What really got me interested was working alongside Mexican cooks from Puebla or Michoacan in a restaurant where we were made classical French and Italian dishes. They told me fascinating stories about their mothers and grandmothers and the villages they came from. I got interested in the history and evolution of Mexican cuisine, looking at it as an anthropologist would.”

As the Executive Chef and partner of Sol Cocina, a Baja-influenced restaurant in Newport Beach, CA, Schneider developed the authentic easy-to-make recipes while Manny Hinojosa, a friend and local rep for Corzo and Cazadores tequilas who set up the bar program at her restaurant, shared some of his personal drink recipes for the book.

In a section designed to help you plan everything from a Cinco de Mayo celebration to summer barbeques, she shows you how to pair her authentic recipes for tacos and antonitos (“little bites”) with her outrageous margaritas (Pineapple Serrano and Tangerine Ginger got my attention), sangritas and mojitos.

Tips Schneider gave me for products and resources she prefers are: pickled jalapenos from La Victoria; a crumbly goat cheese in log form, like Laura Chenel, and Mexican chorizo. “It’s like a paste. You have to cook it for a long time till it’s brown and crumbly, to release the garlic and pepper flavors,” she advises.

For lard she recommends the pork lard found in Latin grocery stores that stays in liquid form even when cold. “It tastes like smoked pork.”

Make sure to check out the section on decorating your cocktails to really make them stand out. I love her idea of spearing shrimp or scallops on a skewer with a cherry tomato and lime or chile on the tip. Dinner and a drink in one!

Here are Schneider’s suggestions for your Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Shrimp Tacos Dorado
Carne Asado Tacos Vampiro (her favorite)
A few different salsas (the Mango Habanero sounds great!)
Black Beans and Rice
Margaritas, Sangria, Mexican Beer

Shrimp Taco Dorado
from “Amor Y Tacos”

Makes 12 substantial tacos, enough for 6 hungry people. The dorado taco is a supertaco—a new trend in which the basic taco is elaborated upon by adding more salsas, cheese, and garnishes; adding layers; toasting and frying; and generally pushing the taco to its limit. (See also the Taco Vampiro, page 107.) A good dorado is gooey, substantial, and filling—a corn tortilla fried on the griddle with a little butter or oil until golden and half crisped, then stuffed with cheese and any number of fillings and sauces.

This taco, a favorite of mine, tops melted cheese with garlicky shrimp, guacamole, and chipotle salsa, then finishes with a spoonful of sweet-hot mango habanero salsa and fresh cilantro sprigs. It all comes together quickly, so make sure everything is ready to serve before you start cooking the shrimp.

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons butter or olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, tails removed, and cut in half if large
1 teaspoon finely chopped chipotles in adobo
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Large corn tortillas
11⁄2 cups grated Jack cheese
Chipotle salsa (page 138)
Guacamole (page 77)
Mango habanero salsa (page 136)
Cilantro sprigs

1. In an 8-inch sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter or oil over medium heat.
When it is heated, but not brown, add the garlic and shrimp, and cook, stirring, until the shrimp are pink. Stir in the chipotles and salt and remove from the heat.

2. Preheat a heavy pan or griddle over medium heat and brush it lightly with some of the remaining butter or olive oil. Set a corn tortilla on the griddle and scatter 2 tablespoons of shredded Jack cheese evenly over the tortilla. Set 3 or 4 shrimp on one side of the tortilla. When the cheese starts to melt, fold the tortilla in half over the shrimp, and continue to cook on both sides until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is lightly crisped and golden brown.

3. Open the taco. Dollop 1 teaspoon of chipotle salsa on top of the shrimp and follow with a tablespoon each of guacamole and mango habanero salsa. Tuck a couple of cilantro sprigs into the opening and serve right away.
If you decide to visit her restaurant on the Balboa Marina in Newport Beach go to for menus and reservations.

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