Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shrimp Escabeche with Cilantro Rice

Acid and salt  These are the two most important words to know when you're wanting to learn to get off the grid for cooking.  When teaching my classes, I think my students are most surprised by  how much salt I use and by the fact that vinegar and citrus juices show up in everything.

The Asian cuisines are most notable for capitalizing on the four main tastes - salty, bitter, sour and sweet and more recently the indescribable fifth taste - Umami - that makes us salivate with even the aromas of charred meat, mushrooms, soy sauce, etc. Why do you think you can't stop eating sushi or curry once you start?

However, in my own food adventures, I've realized that this concept transcends every cuisine if you conscientiously taste as you go.  Making chili?  Try adding a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar just before serving and watch all the spices come to life.  What about creamy French dishes?  Without a quick squeeze of lemon at the end, you have a rich, mouth-coating dish lacking definition.  That bit of acid wakes it up.  Grilling steak?  Sprinkle with coarse salt and a squeeze of lemon to heighten the charred flavor.   Mushrooms love a bit of lemon or sherry vinegar.  Pickled vegetables or a quick peppery salad brighten up everything from pizza to burgers.  Try it.  You'll see.

Escabeche is the Latin method of pickling everything from vegetables to fish.  With shrimp in my freezer, it just seemed right to start there to make a very light and perfect-for-Spring entree.  Carrots and jalapenos almost always reside in my veggie drawer and of course onions and garlic are in my pantry so it came together rather quickly.

CWYG Stats
Veggie Drawer - Carrots, jalapenos

CWYG List - onions, garlic, shrimp, vinegar, oil, spices

Shrimp Escabeche with Cilantro Rice

1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
2 tbsp Western Smoky Blend from Harrison's Spice Blends (email here for info) or
1 tbsp chile powder mixed with 2 tsp salt
2 tbsps olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
2-4 jalapenos, sliced (depends on your taste)
5 cloves garlic, 2 sliced, 3 whole
2 carrots, sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 tbsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 tsps each coriander and cumin seeds, optional
3 cups cooked rice, seasoned with chopped cilantro, juice of 1 lime, salt and 1 minced clove of garlic
  1. Toss the shrimp with the seasoning.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the shrimp in hot olive oil until curled and pink. Remove with a slotted spoon to a deep bowl.  
  3. Saute onion in oil until softened and slightly golden.  Add jalapenos, sliced garlic and carrots. Sauté for a minute.  Place veggies in the bowl with the shrimp.   
  4. In the same pan, bring vinegar, water, salt and spices to a boil.  Pour over veggies.  Slightly smash the garlic cloves, then add. 
  5. Let stand until completely cool if you are not serving right away. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  6. Serve chilled or warm with cilantro rice and chopped avocado.

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