best way to cook shrimp is just to boil it in beer, in the shell, until
it turns bright pink and fills your kitchen with that distinctive
boiled shrimp aroma. Then you drain it, dump it out on some
newspapers spread on your table, salt it heavily in the shell and get to work — with drawn butter or spicy cocktail
sauce for dipping and plenty of cold beer to wash it down with. A
better meal than this cannot be had anywhere, at any price.
But if you're looking for something a bit more exotic, or if you're
stuck somewhere dreaming about Mexico and wishing you were there, try
this amazing dish from Rick Bayless, the Mexican food guru — camarones enchipotlados, shrimp in chipotle sauce. (Bayless' excellent book Mexican Everyday can be found here.)
You need a 15-ounce can of Muir Glen organic, fire-roasted diced
tomatoes. (This is worth tracking down.) You need a can of
chipotle chiles en adobo —
the La Morena brand is easy to find and excellent.
You need one
chayote, a kind of Mexican squash — zucchini will also do. Make
sure you have some fresh cilantro, garlic and olive oil on hand — and
about a pound of fresh shrimp, peeled and veined. (Some fancy
grocery stores sell uncooked shrimp that's been peeled and veined for
you, with the tails left on, and that's worth the slightly extra cost,
since peeling and veining uncooked shrimp is exceedingly boring.)
Put three tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet. Peel and
chop up the chayote into small chunks and sauté it lightly over medium heat in
the oil. Drain the diced tomatoes, saving the liquid, and put
them into a blender. Add one or two chipotle peppers and a
tablespoon of their canning sauce and blend until smooth. Finely
chop or press three garlic cloves and add them to the skillet — wait
about a minute until the garlic is brownish and fragrant, then add the
sauce from the blender, with the liquid from the tomato can. Cook
this for about five minutes, to let the flavors blend, seasoning it
with salt to taste. Then add the shrimp.
Cook the shrimp in the sauce, stirring constantly, until it's as done
as you like. After about four minutes the shrimp will no
longer be translucent and so ready to eat, but I like my shrimp better done
than that. You have to keep checking by taste to get it just
right. Add water or chicken (or fish) broth if the sauce gets too
thick and pasty.
Eat the shrimp, with some roughly chopped cilantro on top for a
garnish. It's good with rice or just by itself, and great with a
strong beer, like Negra Modelo, served ice-cold.
You'll be astonished at how easy and delicious this dish is — it brings the sea and Mexico to you, wherever you are.
[Original photos © 2007 Lloyd Fonvielle and Harry Rossi]