July 6, 2011

Authentic Mexican Flavors: Quick Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic and Adobo Black Beans

We just got back from a wonderful weekend in Cancun where we enjoyed all sorts of authentic Mexican food! We loved it. As much as we love Italian food, good Mexican food is a very close second. It's fresh and bright and has depth and complexity.

We missed them while they were gone. All we had to entertain us was this bag and this ball. 

A dish that exemplifies this is this quick fried shrimp with sweet toasty garlic. While it's simple in it's ingredients, it requires careful preparation that pays off with a delicious taste at the end. Paired with these tasty adobo beans, this is a great meal that will give you an authentic taste of Mexico any night of the week.

Making the Dish
As mentioned, this dish is simple - it's basically just shrimp fried in sweet garlic oil. But getting that garlic oil to be sweet and not bitter takes some care. Start by mincing the garlic finely, as small as you can get it. Then, add it to a small saucepan and cover with enough oil to coat everything and then some. Then it's time to simmer, low and slow.

Simmering the garlic in olive oil.

The garlic will get sweet the longer you cook it so long as it doesn't start to burn, so you need to put the burner on it's lowest possible setting and keep a close eye on the garlic. You'll want to have just a few bubbles rising to the surface of the oil, not a rolling simmer. In our case, even the smallest burner at the lowest setting was still giving off too much heat, so we had to hold the pan a few inches above the burner to get the heat low enough. The longer you do this, the sweeter the garlic and oil will get, but at a minimum you'll need to do this for about 25 - 30 minutes in order to get to the desired state of completion.

This is taking a while, so I'm going to take a nap.

While the garlic is simmering, you can start on the beans. In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, onions, and chiles from a can of chiles en adobo sauce into a smooth blend. The chiles en adobo are pretty easy to find if you go to the mexican section of the grocery store. They have a nice smoky flavor and a hint of spice, but not too much. You should add just a few of these to the puree, but the more you do the more smoky the beans will taste.

Mixing the beans into the cooked onions and garlic.

Grab a can of black beans and drain the juice out of them. In a medium saucepan, start to sauté some chopped red onion and garlic. Once softened, add the drained beans and stir to incorporate. Then add the tomato and chile puree to the beans and stir together. Let them simmer while you finish the shrimp.

Adding the tomato and chile puree to the beans.

By this point, the garlic should be sufficiently sweet so you'll just need to finish it off. Grab a lime and slice it open, and then squeeze the juice into your garlic oil. Bring it to a low simmer and let it cook down a bit. While it's cooking down, grab a couple of chiles from the can of chiles en adobo and slice them open, removing the seeds, and then slice them into thin strips. Add these to the mixture as well, stir and simmer for a few minutes.

Sliced adobo chiles are added to the garlic and lime. 

Finally, it's time to cook the shrimp. Rinse the shrimp off and pat them dry. We used rock shrimp, which are smaller and sweeter, but you can use any kind of shrimp if you can't find rock shrimp. Heat up a nonstick pan and pour some of the garlic oil into the pan.

Draining the sweet garlic oil into the saucepan to cook the shrimp.
You'll want to drain this from the saucepan and make sure that you don't get any garlic in there, or it will burn. Once it gets nice and hot, throw in your shrimp and toss around until it's cooked through and opaque, about 5 minutes tops.

Cooking the shrimp in the sweet garlic oil.

Remove the shrimp from heat and spoon over some garlic and chiles from the saucepan, and stir together. The shrimp is done.

Tossing the shrimp together with the chiles garlic and lime.

To finish off the beans, add fresh baby spinach to the pan, stir around, cover, and remove from heat. This should be all it takes for the spinach to wilt but remain somewhat firm to the bite. The beans are done!

Stirring the beans together about to add the spinach.

The Result
Serve the beans and the shrimp side by side with a few slices of lime. You can squeeze more lime over the shrimp if you'd like.

The finished beans on one side of the dish. 

The sweet and spicy of the shrimp is delicious, and the beans are savory and tasty. It's got that authentic Mexican flavor with the citrusy brightness and smoky chile flavors, and will be devoured pretty quickly.

Have a favorite Mexican dish we should try? Let us know in the comments!

Quick Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic

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(Serves: 2)

1/2 lb rock shrimp
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 whole lime
3 sliced chiles en adobo

Adobo Black Beans

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(Serves: 2 - 4)

15 oz black beans
1/2 can whole tomatoes
1 red onion
1/2 white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 chiles en adobo
3 oz fresh baby spinach

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