Shrimp are like cotton balls, absorbing the flavor of whatever they bathe in. Whitney Otawka developed this dish for Cinco y Diez in Athens, Ga. The shrimp takes on the smoky notes of the tequila and roasted tomatoes and the deep heat of dried arbol chilies. Cooking the shrimp with the heads adds flavor to the sauce. The adventurous can break off the heads and suck in the juices. Make sure you have all the ingredients assembled next to the stove before hand. The cooking goes quickly.
Yield: 2 servings as main dish, 4 as an appetizer
Time: 30 minutes
For the Roasted Tomato Broth:
2 large Roma tomatoes
3 dried arbol chiles
1 cup clam juice
For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons clarified butter, or ghee
7 dried arbol chiles
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced white onion
1 tablespoon minced poblano chile
1 pound extra-large shrimp, or about 16, with the tail and the head left on but the body peeled
2 ounces mezcal
1 ½ cups roasted tomato broth
1 tablespoon lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ to 1 teaspoon salt, depending on salinity of shrimp
Make the broth:
On a hot grill or on a grill pan, roast tomatoes until the skins are charred and soft. On the same grill, toast chiles for a few seconds to soften. Transfer tomatoes and chiles into a blender and purée with clam juice. Strain.
Make the shrimp:
Prepare and assemble all ingredients for the shrimp and have them near the stove.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high and add clarified butter. When it’s hot, add the arbol chiles. Fry lightly until they just begin to darken, which could take less than a minute.
Add garlic, onion and poblano chile and sauté for about 1 minute.
Add shrimp and cook for about 20 seconds. Add mezcal (if using a gas range, remove pan from the heat as you add the alcohol).
Cook for about 30 seconds and add tomato broth.
Simmer for another minute and add lime juice, cilantro and butter. Reduce for 30 more seconds, remove from heat and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Check for seasoning. Add more salt if needed. Serve shrimp and sauce with lime wedges.