Pati’s Mexican Table: Tasty Tequila, Cream & Chipotle Shrimp

We like to impress with our food, but we don’t like to be stuck in the kitchen. So we asked food contributor Pati Jinich for an easy summer recipe that would wow a crowd.

Growing up, we always used to fight over shrimp—it was a special Sunday dish we all looked forward to. For our family gatherings, my abuelita used to bring the shrimp to the table and hold the platter high above her head so no one could sneak any extras.

Nowadays, shrimp is less of a specialty item because it’s so much more affordable. This Tequila, Cream & Chipotle Shrimp is super simple to prepare and truly delicious. The most important thing to remember when working with shrimp is to make sure the shellfish is fresh. Most shrimp you buy in the supermarket is shipped frozen and thawed at the store. One foolproof way to test the freshness of shrimp is to take a whiff—if they smell fishy, stay away!

Shrimp are pretty hearty and really survive the thawing process in great shape so I recommend buying the shrimp frozen and thawing them at home. The best way to thaw shrimp is under a thin stream of cool water—never thaw in the microwave or with hot water (it will just ruin them)—and remember, shrimp have a shelf life of only a couple of days.

Another common mistake people make with shrimp is overcooking. You want them to maintain their crunch—so keep the shrimp in the pan just until they are cooked through.

This recipe also incorporates two Mexican favorites—tequila and chipotle! You’ll look like a pro preparing this dish since it gives you an opportunity to show off your flambé (which looks flashy, but is not dangerous, I promise, just be sure to turn the vent on).  Tequila is actually quite a subtle flavor and by lighting it on fire, we capture the essence of the liquor without the strong alcohol taste.

Chipotles in adobo is one of my favorite ingredients, it brings some really complex flavors to the mix; it's smoky, sweet, deep, rich and pleasantly spicy.  You can make your own, but ready-made chipotles in adobo sauce are a staple in most Mexican markets and should be relatively easy to find.

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Serves 12 small tasting portions

1 pound large shrimp in shell (about 25 per pound), thawed, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more or less to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup Tequila Reposado
1/4 cup Mexican Style Cream (such as Rio Grande)
1 teaspoon Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, or add more to taste
1 bunch chives, chopped

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  In a large and heavy sauté pan set over medium-high heat, let the butter melt.  Once it starts to sizzle, add the garlic.  Stir and cooks for 10 to 15 seconds, until it becomes fragrant.  Incorporate the shrimp, making sure that the pan is not over crowded, and let them brown on one side and then the other, just for about 1 to 2 minutes per side.  Don't let them over cook, they should browned on the outside, but barely cooked through.

Add the Tequila, and slightly tilt the pan over the flame to ignite the Tequila.  Let it cook until the flames disappear.  Stir in the cream and the Chipotle sauce and turn off the heat.  Serve immediately sprinkled with the chives on top.