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Quick-Fried Shrimp
with Sweet Toasty Garlic
(Camarones al Mojo de Ajo)
Makes 6 Servings
*3/4 cup peeled whole garlic cloves (about 2 large heads)
*1 cup good-quality oil, preferably extra virgin olive oil
*3 limes
*2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and cut into thin strips
*2 pounds (about 48) medium-large shrimp, peeled (leaving the last joint and tail intact if you wish)
*3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (optional)
1To prepare the mojo de ajo, either chop the garlic with a sharp knife into 1/8-inch bits or drop the cloves through the feed tube of a running food processor and process until the pieces are roughly 1/8 inch. You should have about 1/2 cup chopped garlic. Scoop into a small (1-quart) saucepan, measure in the oil (you need it all for even cooking) and 1/2 teaspoon salt and set over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally as the mixture comes barely to a simmer (there should be just a hint of movement on the surface of the oil). Adjust the heat to the very lowest possible setting to keep the mixture at that very gentle simmer (bubbles will rise in the pot like mineral water) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is a soft and pale golden (the color of light brown sugar), about 30 minutes. The slower the cooking, the sweeter the garlic.
2Squeeze the juice of 1 of the limes into the pan and simmer until most of the juice has evaporated or been absorbed into the garlic, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chiles, then taste the mojo de ajo and add a little more salt if you think it needs it. Keep the pan over low heat, so the garlic will be warm when the shrimp are ready. Cut the remaining limes into wedges, scoop into a serving bowl and set on the table.
3To prepare the shrimp, devein the shrimp if you wish: one by one, lay the shrimp on your work surface, make a shallow incision down the back and scrape out the (usually) dark intestinal track; pull or scrape it out and discard.
4Set a large (12-inch) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and spoon in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil (but not the garlic) from the mojo. Add half of the shrimp to the skillet, sprinkle generously with salt, then stir gently and continuously until the shrimp are just cooked through, 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the cilantro or parsley if you're using it. Scoop the shrimp onto a deep serving platter. Repeat with the remaining half of the shrimp and another 1 1/2 tablespoons of the garlicky oil.
5When all of the shrimp are cooked, use a slotted spoon to scoop out the warm bits of garlic and chiles from the pan and douse them over the shrimp. (You may have as much as 1/3 cup of the oil leftover, for which you'll be grateful - it's wonderful for sauteeing practically anything). If you're a garlic lover, you're about to have the treat of your life, served with lime wedges to add sparkle.
  • Working ahead: The mojo de ajo keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator (the oil will become solid but will liquefy again at room temperature) so I never recommend making a small amount. Mojo in the refrigerator represents great potential for a quick, wonderful meal. Warm cold mojo slowly before using. For the best texture, cook the shrimp immediately before serving. Or cook them several hours ahead, douse them with the garlic mojo and serve it all at room temperature.
  • Source
    Executive Chef Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill, Chicago, IL