Along the Veracruz coast, some variation of this beguiling preparation of smoky, spicy shrimp is on practically every restaurant menu – from punchy glazed crustaceans to soupy, saucy concoctions that taste of ketchup and fire. The most complex versions rely on the local salsa negra (“black salsa” – it’s really more of a paste) made from dried chipotle chiles, roasted garlic and unrefined sugar. My quick-but-satisfying, saucy everyday version relies on canned roasted tomatoes and canned chipotles.
To turn the dish into a one-skillet meal, you can sauté some chopped peeled chayote or zucchini in the oil (you’ll need to add an extra tablespoon) before adding the garlic; serve this version with lots of warm corn tortillas. My favorite accompaniment for chipotle shrimp, however, is white rice. To devein shrimp (that is, to remove their tiny intestinal tracts), simply make a shallow incision down the back of each one and pull out the (usually) dark vein that’s exposed. Many specialty groceries now carry peeled, deveined shrimp with the tail left on.
A Couple of Simple Riffs:
Replace the shrimp with scallops – the large sea scallops are meaty and delicious, but more expensive (for full scallop flavor, as for “dry pack” ones); bay scallops are smaller but can be unbelievably sweet, especially Nantucket bays at the height of their season.
In a very large (12-inch) nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add 1 pound firm tofu, cut into 3/4 –inch cubes, and stir until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes; remove to a plate. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, with 1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed; lower the heat to medium-high and stir-fry until the eggplant is soft but not mushy. Add the recipe’s garlic and stir for a minute, then add the tomato mixture, ¾ cup vegetable broth and 2 teaspoons soy sauce (I like this mixture to be a little less saucy than the shrimp version). Add the tofu back to the pan, season and serve.
Now for Something Completely Different – Yucatan-Style Shrimp in Achiote:
A similar preparation with a completely different flavor comes from substituting 1 ½ tablespoons prepared achiote paste for the chipotles and their canning liquid. I like to add a couple of tablespoons of fresh lime juice as part of the broth or water.
Total Timeunder 30 minutes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course, tapas/small plates
Dietary Considerationmain course, tapas/small plates
Taste and Texturegarlicky, hot & spicy, smoky
- One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted), drained
- 2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
- 1 tablespoon chipotle canning sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
- About 1 ½ cups fish or chicken broth or water
- 1 to 1 ¼ pounds medium-large shrimp (21 to 25 shrimp per pound), peeled and deveined, tail left on if you wish
- About ¼ cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish
Pour the drained tomatoes into a blender or food processor. Add the chipotle chiles and chipotle canning sauce. Process until smooth.
In a very large (12-inch skillet), heat the oil over medium. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Pour in the tomato mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Add enough brother or water to achieve a light tomato sauce consistency. Taste and season highly with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.
Add the shrimp to the pan. Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in a little more broth or water if the sauce has thickened too much.
Scoop onto dinner plates and sprinkle with the cilantro.
2009 Rick Bayless