Monday, April 16, 2012

Cooking With The First Lady: Chef Marcus Samuelsson's Shrimp Salad Taco Recipe

A healthy, easy, kid-friendly recipe from the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll...
UPDATE, Feb. 26, 2013: Samuelsson cooks with First Lady on Good Morning America
Acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson was one of the culinary masters invited to give cooking demonstrations in the Kids' Kitchen at this year's 134th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. He had a very high-profile sous chef: First Lady Michelle Obama. Joined by three little kids and Today show anchor Al Roker, they made healthy Shrimp Salad Tacos because, as Samuelsson noted, "everyone enjoys a taco." And Mrs. Obama loves anything that will get kids to eat their vegetables: The tacos were filled with avocado, tomato, asparagus, lettuce, corn, and onion. Samulesson has graciously provided his recipe to Obama Foodorama. (Above: Mrs. Obama, Samuelsson and two junior chefs in the Kids' Kitchen)

The chef/owner of New York's critically acclaimed restaurant Red Rooster Harlem, Samuelsson is also a Top Chef Masters champion and cookbook author. A longtime supporter of Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign, Samulesson made history in 2009 when he was invited to be the first-ever guest chef for a White House State Dinner, joining the chefs to cook a primarily vegetarian menu in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Shrimp starred on that menu, too.

Mrs. Obama declared her taco "delicious" as she sampled the flavorful creation, spiced with cilantro, mild chili powder, garlic, and fresh lime juice. She noted that "these tacos have seasonal veggies," and the kids loved them, too. Chef Samuelsson suggested that other vegetables can be loaded into the tacos, and said that any kind of meat (such as beef or chicken) can be substituted for the shrimp in the recipe. (Above: Mrs. Obama tests out her taco)

With fresh shrimp currently running about $16 a pound (in DC, anyway), that's a good tip, because it may be a little pricey for families on tight budgets. The recipe can be made with hard corn taco shells, in small or large size, or with whole wheat tortillas for a softer version. For their demo, Mrs. Obama and Samulesson used hard corn tacos: "I love the crunch," the chef told the First Lady. The recipe has been adapted here for home use by ObFo's Marian Burros, who has authored thirteen cookbooks.

Samuelsson loved his famous assistant as much as Mrs. Obama loved the tacos: "thank you first lady @michelleobama! best sous chef ever," (sic) he Tweeted after the demo on his @MarcusCooks account.

2012 Easter Egg Roll Shrimp Salad Tacos

6 corn taco shells, or 6 five-inch fresh or frozen corn tortillas, or 3 eight-inch fresh or frozen whole wheat flour tortillas

12 large shrimp, peeled and sliced in half

6 asparagus, tender part only, trimmed and cut in 1-inch pieces

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons corn kernels, fresh or frozen

2 most flavorful tomatoes, diced

1 large ripe avocado, thinly sliced, with slices cut in half

Juice of 2 fresh limes

3 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 to 1/2 Teaspoon mild chili powder, according to taste

1 to 3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/2 small head Iceberg or other lettuce, finely shredded

1. Defrost frozen tortillas if these are being used.

2. In a bowl, season shrimp with chili powder, salt and pepper.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the asparagus and onion for about three minutes. Add the shrimp, saute two minutes longer, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.

4. If tortillas are being used, warm these over an open flame or in an ungreased skillet just long enough to soften

5. Add the corn to shrimp and vegetable mixture and continue cooking another minute or two. Add tomatoes and avocado; stir well and cook another minute, only long enough to heat through.

6. While the mixture is cooking, combine the lime juice, cilantro and cheese in a mixing bowl and stir in shredded lettuce.

7. Stuff tortillas and roll up or put in taco shells, beginning with the shrimp and vegetable mixture and topping with lettuce and cheese mixture.

Yield: 6 small tacos or corn tortillas, or three large whole wheat tortillas.

The First Lady and Samuelsson cooking in the Kids' Kitchen:

Samulesson is the author of the excellent cookbook New American Table, and his memoir, Yes, Chef, is forthcoming this summer from Random House. Visit his website,, a guy-centric cooking and lifestyle creation that has loads of recipes and features on culinary adventures.

This year's Easter Egg Roll was, of course, pegged to Mrs. Obama's childhood obesity campaign, and had the theme “Let’s Go, Let’s Play, Let’s Move!." Each of the Obamas' four Easter Egg Rolls has featured a Kids' Kitchen, and this year's corps of guest chefs invited to give cooking demonstrations included other Top Chef vets: Frederick, MD's Bryan Voltaggio, chef/owner of Volt restaurant; Carla Hall, now of ABC's The Chew; Paul Qui, Executive Chef of Uchiko in Austin, TX and the winner of Top Chef: Dallas; and Richard Blais. The Neelys--Gina and Pat--who host Food Network's Down Home with the Neelys, and culinary personality Andrew Zimmern, best known for the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods, also wowed the crowds, as did White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison. Click here for all the video cooking lessons.

All posts about the 2012 Easter Egg Roll can be accessed by clicking here. Check the sidebar of the blog for all White House recipes released to date, and visit for more information on the First Lady's childhood obesity campaign.

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama