Shrimp Diablo. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pigment. Sharyn Dimmick
I have a big binder of recipes that I have clipped from newspapers over many years. When I say, “big binder,” I mean I can’t lift it without both hands and I have been thinking about dividing it into two lately. My binder is loosely organized by main ingredient or type of food: for instance, there is an “Apple” section, but also a “Biscuits” section, “Pork,” but also “Pasta.”
Friday my Mom informed me that she had purchased some Gulf jumbo shrimp for Monday’s lunch. We don’t eat shrimp often because we don’t want to eat shrimp farmed in Thailand. Then she told me she wanted a recipe with a sauce and, of course, it needed to include ingredients we had on hand.
We had no open white wine, which lets out many recipes right there. We do have two bottles of open red, but I did not want to make that substitution in case Merlot was too strong for the shrimp. I took the “Shrimp” section out of the binder and handed her the recipes. “See what you think.”
After some discussion we settled upon Shrimp Diablo. The day she had bought shrimp I had bought a couple of grapefruit. Shrimp Diablo calls for tomatoes and grapefruit juice, dried and fresh chiles. I could use diced canned tomatoes as fresh tomato season is long past and I have always been curious about the effect of grapefruit juice in this dish.
Today I set to work. The first task was to find the New Mexican chiles. I found some expired New Mexican chili powder first and swept it into the garbage — the powder had disintegrated the cellophane packet and another plastic bag (I guess it was powerful in its day — either that or the packaging had been weakened by the New Mexico sun). I found another batch in a glass-stoppered jar (smarter) that had its full strength. Then, hiding on top of the refrigerator among the jars of tea and rice I found the dried chiles.
I put the chiles in a Pyrex bowl with water and nuked them for a minute, covered them with a plate and let them sit while I found the diced tomatoes, opened the can, peeled and sliced garlic, dug the small container of pickled jalapenos from the fridge. Mom said she was going to the store for sourdough bread. I asked her to please get some fresh cilantro.
Meanwhile I sliced five small scallions, measured out a cup of diced tomatoes, zested and juiced one grapefruit, drained the chiles. Then I put on a pot of water for pasta. Uncharacteristically I read the directions, which said to cook the pasta for twelve minutes. At the ten minute mark, Mom had not returned from the store, so I drained the pasta, reasoning that it could finish cooking in the sauce.
Then I peeled shrimp, reserving the shells in a small plastic container to freeze for future stock.
Eventually, Mom returned, bearing cilantro and bread. While I cooked the shrimp, she chopped cilantro and sliced bread and heated bowls. The resulting pasta was piquant, pleasantly hot, with a distinct grapefruit aftertaste. The sauce reminded me of cioppino and was great for soaking up with bread.
Shrimp Diablo (modified from a camping food recipe, originally published in the Contra Costa Times)
For four servings you will need a pound of jumbo shrimp and half a pound of whole wheat pasta. If you will not be satisfied with that quantity, go ahead and adjust the recipe for more pasta or more shrimp
Nuke 1 large dried red New Mexican chile in a glass bowl with a little water for one minute. Cover said chile with plate while you continue with the recipe.
Measure 1 cup diced tomatoes into your blender or food processor (or use 1 large tomato during tomato season).
Peek 5 cloves of garlic and slice or chop roughly. Add to tomatoes in blender
Mince 2 jalapenos or toss in 1 Tbsp of pickled jalapeno rings
Zest 1 grapefruit. Add zest to blender
Now juice the grapefruit (which should yield 1/2 cup juice) and set juice aside for now.
Slice 5 scallions into small pieces. Set aside
Peel 1 lb jumbo shrimp. De-vein if necessary.
Chop 1/3 cup cilantro and add it to blender
By now, your dried chile should be pliable. Tear it into small pieces and add to blender. Whir contents of blender to get a thick, chunky paste.
Put pasta water on to boil for 1/2 lb whole wheat penne
Now assemble next to your stove your tomato-pepper-garlic paste, your reserved juice, your reserved scallions, your peeled shrimp, some olive oil.
Get your pasta cooking before you make the shrimp and sauce, which only takes about five or six minutes.
Heat some olive oil in a good-sized skillet. When oil shimmers, cook the onion. Then add the shrimp and cook until just opaque.
Add the contents of blender and the reserved grapefruit juice. Cook until it simmers and add your drained pasta just until heated through.
Serve in bowls with some good sourdough bread for cleaning up the sauce.
Food Notes: If you don’t like spicy food, cut down on the chiles. If you don’t like chiles at all, skip this recipe. If you don’t like cilantro or are allergic to it, choose some benign herb of your liking. I can imagine tarragon or summer basil. Please make this with fresh grapefruit, which has an incomparable flavor that you just don’t get in a can or frozen. And, yes, you can make it with “regular” pasta, but I don’t know why you would, unless you are out of whole wheat.
By the way, my sister-in-law was here for lunch, just so you know that Mom and I did not eat two bowls apiece. We each had a bowl and there is a small bowl left with two lonely shrimp.
How ’bout that: fresh grapefruit juice and zest makes this fit for a little citruslove, the wonderful January blog hop. #citruslove. Go check out some more citrus recipes here.
Painting note: I did this painting with pigments and brushes only. No watercolor pencils for a change.