28 April 2010
Shrimp with Mushrooms and Chiles
I may be having a bit of trouble adjusting back from our vacation- you mean I have to work and commute and run and blog again? I can't while away my time in an outdoor cafe? Blasphemy! It doesn't help that Paul and I moved in together, and all our possessions have been in boxes for weeks as we sort out what to do with 2 couches, 2 dining tables, and 2 of every blender, mandoline, and zester ever made. One of us may be a pack rat, I'm not saying who.
But don't worry, I wouldn't miss out on a chance to tell you about our excellent trip to Oaxaca, where we went to cooking school and learned about chiles and ate in the markets and in superb restaurants. Paul is already scheming to go back to some of the restaurants, and I'm busy trying to apply all the things I learned in our home kitchen.
We chose to go to Oaxaca, the southernmost state in Mexico, because it's known for its unique regional cuisine, much of which carries on ancient native traditions. Oaxaca is famous for its moles, the complex sauces which come in black, red, green, yellow and many other varieties. The famous mole negro is made from chiles, almonds, sesame, raisins, garlic, onion, spices, and chocolate. We loved the food culture in Oaxaca, the freshly ground chocolate factories, the central market with at least 100 varieties of chile, the ice cream and the fried grasshoppers. But we also loved Oaxaca because it's just a pleasant little town, with a big central square, and a handful of nice museums and shops, a town that's walkable and safe even late at night.
We took cooking lesons with the wonderfu Jose Louis at el Teatro Culinario, where they teach both classic and contemporary Oaxacan cuisine. I really enjoyed the contemporary class, where we learned to use traditional ingredients like chiles, avocado leaves, yerba santa, epazote and quesillo Oaxaca in contemporary dishes which I could easily stir up at home. The Teatro Culinario is also a spectacular restaurant, which serves 6 or 8 course meals of delicately presented contemporary Mexican food like nopales salad with fig paste, hibiscus sauce, requeson and squash blossom quenelle and balsamic reduction.
We're still lusting after the lamb chops in red sauce we had at Casa Oaxaca, and the cajeta ice cream, and most of all, the ability to forget about email and cell phones and while away our afternoons in a shady sidewalk cafe.
Shrimp with Mushrooms and Chiles
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb mixed mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 each pulla, guajilla, and pasilla chiles
1 tablespoon each diced epazote, yerba santa, and cilantro
about a cup of water
salt, pepper, olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Using scissors, slice the dried chiles very thinly into a bowl. Let the chile seeds fall into the bowl as well, set aside.
2. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender and translucent. Add the mushrooms, saute them for a minute, the add the chiles, chile seeds, herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Let this cook, stirring for about ten minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and reduced.
3. Meanwhile heat some olive oil in another saute pan (make sure it is oven-proof). Add the shrimp and saute over high heat until pink on the outside, but not fully curled up or done. Add enough water to fill the base of the pan, sprinkle with salt, place a lid on the pan and place in the oven to steam. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are very plump and cooked through, but not overdone.
4. Spoon mushrooms on a plate, spoon shrimp over. Serve over pasta or as desired.