Updated 2009-04-20 12:02:41 ID=370:0

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80
©2008 The Romantic Table

Susan McGourty's Table Talk

What are California Central Coast Style Recipes?


Occasionally we get asked, what's different about California Central Coast Recipes? I reply that it has to have these three basic characteristics: the recipe uses fresh locally-grown ingredients, simple healthy preparation and simple but elegant presentation. We work hard to make things easy. Here's how one recipe evolved from an over-ambitious -multi-step recipe to that of one of our most simple, healthy and at the same time elegant ones.

When I am asked what are California Central Coast Recipes, I reply that they have these three basic characteristics in common: the recipes use fresh preferably locally-grown ingredients, simple healthy preparation and simple but elegant presentation.

Of the three characteristics, I put a lot of emphasis on easy preparation. If a recipe is too complicated, or has too many ingredients, it becomes something of a "recipe monster" that wears the cook down and confuses the natural flavors. The "secondary ingredients" should compliment the "primary ingredients", not change its identity into a miss-mash of clashing flavors.

A case in point. For one of our featured recipes, we wanted a recipe for a fun dish to serve to friends --Shrimp Tacos. Shrimp Tacos historically are a staple along the Mexican and California Pacific Coast. The traditional recipe, although very delicious, was developed in times long past when there were multiple generations of women living in the house and working in the kitchen with lots of extra "hands" to mind the cooking (and the clean-up!)

The traditional recipe has three separate steps that required involved preparation, a sauce based upon a seafood broth, a complicated filling using fresh raw shrimp, and fresh tortillas -just the top part, in a complicated assembly and deep fried finish. Also, the filling used diced fresh shrimp. Now, Mexican Wild White Shrimp are sweet and very delicious, but using fresh shrimp is a lot of work, involving cleaning, de-veining and shelling the raw shrimp prior to cooking them. What a shame to go through all that work just to cut dice them up. I said to myself "this recipe is getting out of hand!" Normally, for a more elaborate recipe I would think nothing of cleaning raw shrimp, but this was tacos! We wanted something quick to throw together and FUN!

Well, I made the traditional recipe. And I did it the "traditional way" of making the seafood stock from the shells of the shrimp. In order for this broth to be at its best, it required at least an hour of cooking. On another burner I was cooking down some tomatoes, while still on another burner I was making a mild hot sauce. And of course on another burner we were sauteing the trito (a trito is a base of three aromatic vegetables) to add the raw shrimp to.

When done, The tacos were very good, but I thought that the sauce was a bit too much for the shrimp, and you should have seen our kitchen stove top and counters! From the start of preparation to eating our creation took almost two hours! Now tacos are supposed to fun --and were originally made as a quick snack. This was "no quick ANYTHING!" This was WAY too evolved to fit our requirements for a good recipe!

So I started thinking what would the ultimate shrimp taco taste like? I pictured it with sauteed diced trito of onion, carrot and pepper, with shrimp in a good-tasting crunchy taco shell. I love tritos. Tritos are the basis of many "comfort food" recipes and a fantastic base to build a recipe upon. They go down so-o easily! -And I love Shrimp! Finally, to top it all I had to have a fresh-made sauce, but complimentary, not competing with the shrimp-trito filling.

©2009 The Romantic Table, Shrimp Tacos - Central Coast Style are an easy to make but delicious light meal. 2009-04-13 20:59:20:138
©2009 The Romantic Table

Shrimp Tacos - Central Coast Style are an easy to make but delicious light meal.
The next time I made the recipe I simplified the recipe a lot. I decided to use an easier preparation method, skipping the complicated seafood broth based sauce, and instead, make a fresh tomatillo sauce to top the tacos with. I also thought a little grated Cotija cheese and fresh line juice would work very well to top the tacos. "Keep things simple and fresh" I thought to myself.

I started by quickly chopping up some onion, red pepper, and carrot. I sauteed the trito medley in a little extra-virgin olive oil until softened. Oh did it look good! I added a couple chopped cloves of garlic and simmered it some more, then added a splash of Fume Blanc to deglaze the pot and cooked the wine down until the sauce thickened a bit. Now, this time to really make it simple I used thawed cooked shrimp. I threw them in the pot to let them warm up and flavor the filling. By this time things were getting interesting. Even though I had cut the preparation steps down quite a bit, I loved what I saw and smelled! Could this be the recipe?

In the meantime, prepared crunchy taco shells had been warming in the oven, and were just waiting to be filled. My husband and I sat down to eat my new creation. We assembled all our garnishes and extras to make this "trial taco recipe" really interesting and delicious. We had fresh limes, Cotija cheese, shredded lettuce and the fresh tomatillo sauce to give that added "extra-something" that we needed to set this taco recipe apart from the "pack"

We toasted each other with our glasses of red wine, and assembled our tacos, first with the lovely shrimp-trito mixture, then a little tomatillo sauce, a little cheese, a few strands of lettuce, a good squeeze from a fresh lime and sat down to enjoy our efforts. We both bit in and were pleasantly surprised to discover that this recipe was actually BETTER than the two hour version! And it took much less time! The preparation and cooking time was only thirty minutes! And the kitchen wasn't covered with pots and pans in all directions!

Finally, a recipe that's really easy and fun to make when you want a fun little get-together!

In my opinion, you can overdo some recipes. Sure the "traditional recipe" was delicious and authentic, but what I really wanted was to have something casual, quick and easy --so why take a simple food and balloon it into something it's not -a five-course dinner?

You lose track of the REAL purpose for a simple meal with friends -a casual fun get-together!





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A tip from Sue!

Eating well with no guilt!

For those health-conscious, alternate a "healthy meal" just before and after a "splurge meal." You can enjoy the food much more when you're not plagued by guilt! And this keeps you on a self-imposed "mini-diet" and maintains your weight much better than if you haphazardly eat at random.