Tacos gobernador is a modern Mexican classic that combines a sauté of shrimp, fresh tomatoes and chilies with quesillo, a stringy cheese not unlike mozzarella, that’s melted onto the tortillas before assembly. In this recipe, Milk Street morphs those tacos into something simpler but equally delicious and in the same spirit.
The shrimp is seared, then combined with sautéed onion, fresh tomatoes and a minced charred habanero chili. Instead of melting a mild, milky cheese onto the tortillas before filling them, this recipe simply garnishes the tacos with crumbled cotija, a dryish Mexican cheese that packs lots of salty, savory flavor, along with fresh cilantro.
The shrimp filling gets a fair amount, but not scorching heat from the habanero chili; to tame the spiciness, Milk Street suggests seeding the chili after charring, before finely chopping it.
With no corn tortillas available at two different stores, we ended up with the flour variety. And for some odd reason our two small habaneros hardly had any kick to them, even when keeping the seeds. Thus, an added 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne provided the heat we desired, but not overly so.
With a side of fiesta black beans, it was one tasty dinner!
Don’t forget to pat the shrimp dry before searing. Removing surface moisture helps prevent steaming and ensures good, flavorful browning. Also, don’t brown the shrimp on both sides—the point is for them to be only parcooked after searing. They will fully cook—to a plump, tender finish—when returned to the pan with the tomatoes.
Seared Shrimp Tacos with Tomato and Cotija
- 1 habanero chili, stemmed
- 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
- 1 1/2 lbs. extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined, patted dry
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
- 3 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
- 1 Tbsp. lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve
- 3 oz. cotija cheese, crumbled (¾ cup)
- 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped
- 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
- Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high until water flicked onto the surface immediately sizzles and evaporates. Add the chili and cook, turning every 1 to 2 minutes, until well charred on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes total. Transfer the chili to a cutting board.
- In the same skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp in an even layer and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook without stirring until the bottoms of the shrimp are browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and set aside; reserve the skillet. Finely chop the chili.
- In the same skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Stir in the shrimp and any accumulated juices, the tomatoes and chili; cook, stirring, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in the lime juice, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, put the cotija, cilantro and lime wedges into small bowls. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a serving dish, then serve with the tortillas and garnishes for making tacos.
Recipe by Calvin Cox for Milk Street