Friday, November 6, 2015

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo y Añejo Tequila

     Garlic and Anejo Tequila Shrimp!  
     If you like garlic, then today's recipe will be to your liking!   Camarones al Mojo de Ajo is a traditional Mexican cuisine entrée.  Nearly every formal and casual Mexican restaurant in the west offers this menu item.
     To make Camarones al Mojo de Ajo, the shrimp are placed in an acidic garlic marinade till the flavor is thoroughly infused, then the shrimp are sautéed with even more garlic.   Whole unshelled shrimp, preferably with the heads attached, are required for this recipe.  There is no hot chile pepper of any kind in this recipe.  The orange color actually comes from anatto.
     Tequila has become a popular cooking liquor in recent years.  Adding Tequila to a traditional Mexican style garlic shrimp recipe is something that many modern chefs have done.  The Tequila imparts a nice gentle cactus flavor to this recipe.  Tequila also becomes a selling point, because it increases customer interest.

      Deciding what kind of Tequila to select for a recipe is not as easy as it seems.  Not everybody is familiar with the Tequila classification system.  This next bit of information might help to clarify the matter.
     Cheap bottles of "bar well brand" Tequila can be used for cooking, but often they do not have enough flavor to bother with.  Some have a flavor that is not good at all.  Most bottom slelf bar stock Tequilas are Tequila Mixto.  Tequila Mixto is 51% Blue Agave and the other 49% can be comprised of any number of mysterious additives.
    The next step up is premium name brand Tequilas, but the intensity of flavor still may not be great for cooking purposes.  This is because most premium name brand Tequilas are not aged and they are usually Tequila Mixto that is made with higher quality ingredients.  Some premium name brands are made with 100% Blue Agave and these are the better choice.  The words silver (clear) and oro (gold) simply describe the color.      
     Reposado Tequila is usually aged for less than one year and the aging time can be as little as a few months.  Reposado Tequila is worth looking into for featuring in recipes.
     Añejo Tequila is aged for a minimum of 1 year in oak barrels.  The flavor is much richer than a young Tequila.  Many Añejo Tequilas cost only a few dollars more than a premium brand Tequila that has not been aged, so the price per bottle is not always cost prohibitive.  When the words "Añejo Tequila" are part of the name of a restaurant menu item, it increases the appeal of the entrée because of the higher standard of quality.
     A top grade Extra Añejo Tequila easily compares to a fine old aged Scotch, Bourbon or Cognac.  The price of a top grade bottle of Extra Añejo Tequila starts at about $100 and some easily exceed $250.  Just like the price suggests, it would be a waste of money to use a top grade Extra Añejo Tequila for culinary purposes.  The finest Extra Añejo Tequilas should always be served on their own, so leave that dusty old bottle of fine Extra Añejo Tequila on the shelf where it belongs!
     Mexican Rice:
     This recipe yields 2 small portions.
     This Mexican rice recipe variation is a bit on the bland side, because it is meant to accompany the strong flavor of the garlic sauce!
     Step 1:  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 of a cup of long grain white rice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anatto or achiote paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of tomato puree.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Step 3:  Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Let the rice simmer and steam for almost 20 minutes.
     When the rice is becomes tender and the liquid is absorbed, remove the pot from the heat.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top.
     Camarones al Mojo de Ajo y Añejo Tequila: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.  
     Step 1:  Place 8 to 10 whole unshelled large shrimp in a mixing bowl.  (Whole shrimp with the the heads attached are best for this recipe.  Be sure to trim off the antennae.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Marinate the shrimp in a refrigerator for 30 minutes.
     *Try not to marinate for too much time or the shrimp will pickle like ceviche!
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic starts to turn a golden color.
     Step 4:  Remove the shrimp from the marinade and add the shrimp to the hot pan.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté the shrimp till they are almost fully cooked.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 cup of Añejo Tequila.
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of shrimp broth.
     Add 2 pinches of ground anatto.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped cilantro.
     Step 7:  Quickly simmer and reduce the sauce, till the excess liquid evaporates and only about 2 tablespoons remain.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter while constantly swirling the pan, to create a butter sauce.
     Use a ring mold to place a portion of the Mexican Rice on a plate.
     Place the shrimp on the plate, so the heads point away from the rice.
     Spoon the Garlic and Añejo Tequila Butter Sauce over the shrimp.
     Garnish the plate with a few lemon wedges and cilantro sprigs.
     The Añejo Tequila adds a gentle blue agave cactus flavor.  This is a saucy, garlicky, "finger licking good" plate of shrimp!