I think Glenn Frey put it best when he said, “The heat is on.” When the fever of summer hits, the last thing I want to do is spend an extended period of time in front of my stove. Which is why this fourth of July weekend I’m bringing a tropical shrimp salad to the BBQ. Not only does it make for a cool and refreshing side, shrimp cook quickly. If you work it right you can leave the kitchen without breaking into a full sweat.
Of course, quick cook times can be a double-edged sword. Just 30 seconds over can leave you chewing on a rubbery mess. But I’m getting ahead of myself. When choosing shrimp for your loved ones the very first step and frankly the most important one is sourcing it from a reputable company that farms and fishes responsibly. Look for stamps of approval from the Marine Stewardship Council or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. These mean that the purveyor works cleanly and in a sustainable way.
When you can score live shrimp from a reputable source, do it. However, I usually head straight to the frozen food aisle. You can’t beat the convenience, and the ones in the freezer are fresher than shrimp at the fish counter, which were frozen at sea and then defrosted for display. They’re also a lot easier on the wallet. When choosing frozen make sure to look for freezer burn. A copious amount of ice crystals means your shrimp have been through some things, mostly temp changes that don’t do much for texture or flavor. Choose individually frozen shrimp, as it makes them easier to portion out.
Make sure you’re buying the right size. In this recipe, I use 1 lb of 26/30 shrimp. The number signifies how many pieces it takes to make a pound, in this case, 26 to 30. The smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. U10s (under 10 pieces in a pound) are perfect for a dramatic jumbo shrimp cocktail. 26/30s cook up bite sized, a wonderful choice for a summer salad. I buy my shrimp deveined, head off, shell on. I usually defrost them overnight in my fridge. If I’m in a jam I run cool water over them to speed up the process. Never defrost seafood at room temperature or with hot or warm water. It makes your protein a literal breeding ground for bacteria.
For this recipe, I’m preparing my shrimp ceviche-style, letting an acidic dressing cook them all the way through. It’s always best to lightly poach shrimp for two or three minutes first, to kill bacteria that citrus can’t. After poaching, I mix the shrimp into a bitter orange passion fruit dressing for thirty minutes and then take them out to stop the cooking process. I pour the dressing into a bowl filled with shredded green papaya, purslane and shallot and let them soak up the citrusy liquid. I mix in mango, cilantro and gooseberries for a colorful, tropical punch then garnish with creamy avocado and crispy plantain chips.
Purslane (in case you’re not familiar with it) is a succulent with a juicy, crisp bite and green apple flavor. It’s a weed that’s rich in omega-3s and grows wild throughout much of the world. You can find it along with all of the tropical fruits for this salad in your favorite Latino grocery store where it might be known as verdolagas. If you have trouble sourcing purslane you can substitute with another hearty green like watercress or arugula.
Treat green papaya like you would a vegetable. Look for fruit that is deep green and heavy for its size. It shouldn’t have any soft spots. The texture and flavor of green papaya can be mimicked by julienning a small head of cabbage along with 1 small jicama. When jicama isn’t available you can sub green apples in the slaw.
Tangy, orange Cape gooseberries are also known as uchuva, golden berry or Inca berry. They are related to the tomatillo and can come still covered in their beige papery husk. Remove the husk and rinse them before cutting them in half. Good substitutes include rainier cherries, orange grape tomatoes or tomatillos.
I grew up in Mayaguez, a town in Puerto Rico known for its delicious mangoes, so I consider myself a connoisseur. I find that the smaller, golden Champagne mangoes have the best sweetness and texture. These mangoes are also known as Ataulfo and their creamy flesh hits huge notes of honey. They are much more flavorful than larger mangoes which can be fibrous and taste watered-down. Choose mangoes with a strong perfume who have some give when you press a finger into them. If you can’t find mango, you can always sub in figs or peaches.
The following recipe makes 6 servings of cool, refreshing, tangy tropical shrimp salad. Buen provecho!
- 4-quart pan
- large nonreactive bowls (acids react to metal so it’s best to use stainless steel, plastic, ceramic or glass)
- Steam pan and a bowl to catch liquid from the steam pan
- Ice bath
- Mandoline with julienne setting or a hand held julienne peelerl
- Mortar and pestle or small food processor
- 2 quarts water
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of salt
- ½ cup dried shrimp (optional)
- 6 dried spicy red chiles
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound 26/30 shrimp
- 1 green papaya, julienned (3 to 4 cups) (sub jicama or 2 green apples & 1 small head of cabbage)
- 2 cups purslane leaves, cleaned (sub watercress or arugula)
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced into half moons
- zest of three limes (about 2 to 3 teaspoons)
- 8 limes, juiced
- 4 lemons, juiced
- 1 orange, juiced
- ½ cup passionfruit pulp (To keep cost down you can use frozen pulp, found in the fruit section of your latino grocer’s frozen foods aisle. If you use fresh pulp, strain out the seeds.)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 habaneros, seeded, deveined and minced
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon anchovy paste
- ¼ teaspoon ginger, minced
- Two champagne mangos sliced into half moons ¼ inch thick
- Two champagne mangos sliced into half moons ¼ inch thick
- 3 heaping tablespoons of cilantro leaves
- 1 cup gooseberries, sliced in half
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon lime zest
- Salt and ground red pepper to taste
- Plantain chips for garnish
- Thinly sliced avocado for garnish (brush with citrus dressing to prevent oxidization)
- Place 2 quarts of salted water in a large pot over high heat. I add salt until it tastes like the sea, about 3 tablespoons. Add the optional dried shrimp and the red peppers. While the water comes up to a boil rinse the pound of defrosted shrimp in cool water. Remove them from their shells. Add the shells to the broth. Rinse shrimp and set in a bowl along with ½ teaspoon of salt and set aside.
- Once the broth comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes so that the flavors develop. Prepare an ice bath. Add the shrimp to the simmering broth and immediately turn off the heat. Gently stirring, poach the shrimp for two minutes or until they are about 50 percent opaque. Remove shrimp and place in ice bath for a few minutes to stop any carryover cooking. Remove from the ice bath and dry on paper towels. Strain the shrimp shell broth and refrigerate once it’s cool. Use it to poach eggs later. #BOMB
- Prepare the bitter orange passion fruit dressing. Bitter orange grows wild in Puerto Rico and is often used to tenderize and flavor meats. You can mimic it’s flavor profile by mixing ½ part orange juice with 1 part lemon and 4 parts lime. Zest and juice 8 limes. Reserve 2 teaspoons of zest and store the rest. Zest and juice 1 orange and 4 lemons. Store their zest for future use.You should have about a cup and a half of citrus juice. Add ½ cup frozen passion fruit puree and stir until incorporated.
- Using a mortar and pestle or small food processor puree olive oil, garlic, habaneros, anchovy paste, salt and pepper to taste. Add to the citrus juice mix and blend.
- Remove shrimp from ice bath and place in a nonreactive bowl (I prefer glass). Mix the shrimp with the dressing and cover in plastic wrap. Let sit in the fridge for thirty minutes or until cooked through.
- Rinse the papaya to clean it. Lay the papaya on its side and slice off the stem end. Stand the papaya on this end and use a potato peeler to make quick work of removing the deep green skin. Slice the papaya in half, from top to bottom. Scrape out the white seeds.
- Use a mandoline to julienne the papaya lengthwise into ⅛ inch thick strips. If you don’t have a mandoline GET ONE. Seriously. They’re cheap and a total game changer. Go to an Asian market for great deals. Otherwise, use a julienne peeler or your chef’s knife to shred the papaya.
- Place the shredded papaya in a colander. And put that colander over a bowl. Mix 1 teaspoon of sugar into 2.5 teaspoons of salt and sprinkle over the papaya. Let papaya sit for 10 minutes or so until limp. Reserve the liquid in the bowl. Rinse the papaya in the colander with cold water and then place it in the center of a food safe dish towel.
- Remove excess liquid by wrapping the dish towel around the mound of papaya and twisting the ends together until papaya milk starts to soak through the towel. Holding the papaya above the bowl where you have reserved its liquid, squeeze as much milk out of the papaya as you can and into the bowl. Save this liquid and use it as a natural meat tenderizer. Place the now dried shredded papaya into a non-reactive bowl. Mix in the purslane and thinly sliced shallot.
- Remove shrimp from dressing and adjust the dressing seasoning for salt and heat. Mix in 1 teaspoon of lime zest. Pour the dressing into the bowl that contains your shredded papaya. Let the papaya and greens soak it in for at least ten minutes.
- Slice a mango lengthwise along both sides of the seed. Cut those two slices in half again, lengthwise. Separate the flesh by running a spoon between it and the skin. Slice the mango into 2-inch slices about ¼ inch thick. Wash gooseberries and cut in half. Rinse cilantro in a bowl of cold water and then dry. Mix in the cilantro with the mango and gooseberries. Dress this salad with olive oil, lime juice, salt and hot pepper.
- Plate a scoop of green papaya salad with 3 to 4 shrimp on top, adding 2 tablespoons of the cilantro tropical fruit salad to the plate. Garnish with avocado and plantain chips.