There may be a slight wait for your food at Rubio’s since everything is made fresh right there when you order it, including the shrimp for this taco that is grilled on a plancha, a Spanish flattop grill. That’s great for me since it allowed me to peek into the kitchen to see exactly how they make these Grilled Gourmet Tacos. The secret is in toasting a cheese blend onto the tortilla before filling it. That’s done by placing a pile of cheese on the griddle with the tortilla on top of it. When the cheese has browned, in about a minute, a spatula is inserted under the cheese and the tortilla is lifted and flipped, then it’s loaded with the fillings. You don’t need a plancha for the shrimp—any flattop griddle or preheated skillet will work just fine. This new hack will also show you how to duplicate Rubio’s great chipotle cream sauce and shrimp marinade. Use my recipe for the Red Tomatillo Salsa here to finish off this copy of the best shrimp tacos at any chain restaurant.

2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ancho chili pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup minced cilantro
½ cup water
32 small (51/60) raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pureed canned chipotle with adobo sauce (see OPTIONAL)

¾ cup diced onion
3 tablespoons minced cilantro

4 ounces (1⅓ cups) shredded white cheddar cheese
1 ounce (⅓ cup) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 ounce (⅓ cup) shredded Mozzarella cheese

8 corn tortillas
½ cup Rubio’s Red Tomatillo Salsa (here)
½ cup crumbled cooked bacon (from 4 to 6 pieces of bacon)
16 to 24 avocado slices (from 1 large or 2 small avocados, respectively)

Cooking method

1-Make the shrimp marinade by combining the black pepper, garlic powder, ancho chili powder, paprika, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the lime juice and oil, making a paste. Stir in the cilantro and water, then add the shrimp. Marinate for 1 hour.

While the shrimp is marinating, make the chipotle cream sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Make the onion/cilantro blend by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl. And make the cheese blend by combining all of the shredded cheeses in a medium bowl.

3-When the shrimp is done marinating and you are ready to make your tacos, preheat a heavy skillet (a cast-iron skillet works great if you’ve got one) over medium heat. Remove the shrimp from the marinade, add it to the pan, and cook for 2 minutes per side or until done.

While the shrimp is cooking, prepare each tortilla in a nonstick skillet that has been preheating over medium heat. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of the cheese blend into the hot pan in a circle that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the tortilla. Place a tortilla on top of the cheese. After a minute or so, when the cheese has browned slightly, use a spatula under the cheese to remove the tortilla. Build each taco by arranging 4 shrimp on the toasted cheese, followed by about 2 teaspoons of chipotle cream sauce and 2 teaspoons of the red tomatillo salsa. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the onion/cilantro blend on next, followed by a tablespoon of crumbled bacon. Top off each taco with 2 to 3 avocado slices and serve immediately.

5-(OPTIONAL) Puree the can of chipotle chilies and adobo sauce by dumping the entire contents of the can into a blender with ⅓ cup water and blend until the chilies are pureed. The sauce should be smooth with no pepper chunks remaining.

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