June 12, 2010 1:00 PM
Tequila, Mexican Cream and Chipotle Shrimp

Shrimp tend to be perceived as a treat. That fancy item on a menu.

Think about what happens at a shrimp station on a Sunday buffet. It gets crowded. Even if you didn't feel like eating shrimp, if there's a shrimp station, chances are you will eat them. Your mom, your dad, your husband or friends will look at your shrimp-less plate and push some shrimp onto your plate.

Growing up in Mexico City, family Sunday lunches with the dozens and dozens members of our immediate family included giant shrimp from the Mercado de la Viga.  There was so much anticipation as to when they would majestically appear on that huge platter carried by my grandmother. Before they got to the table, people started sneaking away some. So my grandmother decided to set a pre-lunch agreement on the number of shrimp per head, to avoid childish grown up wording snaps like "YOU always get the extra shrimp" or sudden door slams.

So when I was asked to develop a Mexican menu for the 2010 RAMMYS Awards I just had to include shrimp. I paired them with some signature Mexican ingredients: smoky and hot Chipotle Chiles in Adobo, tangy and salty Mexican Cream and the iconic Tequila Reposado. 

And so, they were served to the 1600 attendees.

But before that day, the cooking staff under the expert guidance of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel Executive Chef Horst Lummert, had to test the recipe.

That day of testing and tasting was incredibly fun. Here we were, as we watched how the tequila drunken shrimp were ignited...

And here we were, watching a crowded shrimp station serve hundreds of plates.

And here is how you can get a taste of those shrimp, right at home. Along with some igniting which is such a thrill.

First of all. Get some good shrimp. Though it is always  better to use fresh ingredients, truth is, it is hard to get fresh shrimp. Although sold thawed, they tend to traveled frozen. A wonderful thing about shrimp though, different from fresh fish, is that shrimp freeze well and can survive the thawing process in great shape, keeping their crispness and flavor.

Here is a suggestion: If you are using them today, buy them thawed, but ask your fishmonger how long they have been sitting there. It should be 1 or 2 days tops. They shouldn't seem limp or sad and should have a light saltwater smell. Get them with the shrimp and tail on.  

If you are using them tomorrow or further on, buy them frozen. Then you are on top of how long they have been thawed.To thaw, have them in the refrigerator a day before using and rinse them under cold running water.  Don't thaw them at room temperature or in a microwave, or you will end up with shrimp ready for a Halloween party.

Once thawed, peel and season them with Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a large pan over medium high heat, once your butter is sizzling, toss in some fresh minced garlic. Let it become fragrant, 10 seconds or so... and add the shrimp. 

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Cook the shrimp just 1 or 2 minutes per side, so they will be soft, crispy and sweet instead of chewy, rubbery and boring.

Then pour your Tequila. This is what I have at home... The Gran Centenario. Different from the Blanco or White tequila, the Reposado is darker in color because it is aged in wooden barrels. It has a bolder flavor. But feel free to use whatever you have handy. You can also use Mezcal.

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Now: Watch it. Once you add the Tequila, slightly tilt the pan to the flames of your burners as you lightly step back. It will ignite fast and furiously, but only for less than half a minute. Here's a FLIP video for you... With really bad sound.

What I was trying to say through the sizzling sound was that igniting the Tequila gets rid of the alcohol presence and retains the bold flavors from the Tequila.
Continue to cook the shrimp until the flames disappear and add the Mexican cream...

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...and the Chipotle Chile in Adobo sauce. If you feel like it, drop in a Chile too.


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Stir it and turn off the heat.

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Plate the shrimp covered in the sauce, just like that, while they are hot, hot, hot! And toss some fresh chopped chives...

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... right on top. The chives not only add a fresh flavor and color, but add a vibrant contrast to the creamy sauce.

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Here is a close up of for you...

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Crispy and sweet, smoky and tangy, and oh so bold with the presence of the Tequila. Plus they are, sooooooo much fun to prepare! Go on and impress someone...

Serves 12 small tasting portions

1 pound large shrimp in shell(about 25 per pound), thawed, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 cup Tequila Reposado
1/4 cup Mexican Style Cream (such as Rio Grande)
1 teaspoon Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, or add more to taste
1 bunch chives, chopped

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large and heavy saute pan set over medium-high heat, let the butter melt. Once it starts to sizzle, add the garlic. Stir and cook for 10 to 15 seconds, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Incorporate the shrimp, making sure that the pan is not over crowded, and let them brown on one side and then the other, just for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Don't let them over cook, they should brown on the outside, but barely cooked through.

Add the Tequila, and slightly tilt the pan over the flame to ignite the Tequila. Let it cook until the flames disappear. Stir in the cream and the Chipotle sauce and turn off the heat. Serve immediately sprinkled with the chives on top.