We would always go to Soberanis on the Paseo de Montejo in Merida to eat Camarones al mojo de ajo. Rick Bayless's recipe seems to come close to the way Soberanis made them.Rick's recipe calls for chile de arbol in the mojo, but in Yucatan the salsa picante is always served on the side to be added to taste. I would also have the fish market shell and devein the shrimp in order to make this a quick and easy recipe. Serve this with rice and a salad.Serves 6 generously
Working ahead: Since the mojo de ajo keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator (the oil will become solid but will liquefy again at room temperature), it makes sense to cook a large amount. Mojo in the refrigerator holds great potential for a quick wonderful meal. Heat cold mojo slowly before using. For the best texture, cook shrimp immediately before serving. Or cook several hours ahead, douse with garlic mojo and serve at room temperature.
¾ cup peeled whole garlic cloves (about 2 large heads)
1 cup good-quality oil, preferably extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
2 pounds (about 48) medium-large shrimp, peeled (leaving the last joint and tail intact if you wish)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (optional)
To make mojo de ajo
- Either chop garlic with a sharp knife into 1/8-inch bits or drop cloves through feed tube of a running food processor and process until pieces are roughly 1/8 inch. You should have about ½ cup chopped garlic.
- Scoop into a small (1-quart) saucepan, measure in oil (use all of it for even cooking) and ½ teaspoon salt, and set over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally as mixture comes barely to a simmer (there should be just a hint of movement on the surface of the oil). Adjust the heat to very lowest possible setting to keep mixture at that very gentle simmer (bubbles will rise in the pot like mineral water).
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is a soft and pale golden (the color of light brown sugar), about 30 minutes (the slower the cooking, the sweeter the garlic).
- Squeeze juice of 1 of the limes into the pan and simmer until most of the juice has evaporated or been absorbed into the garlic, about 5 minutes. Taste the mojo de ajo and add a little more salt to taste.
- Keep pan over low heat, so garlic will be warm when shrimp are ready. Cut remaining limes into wedges, scoop into a serving bowl and set on the table.
- Devein shrimp if desired (lay the shrimp one by one on your work surface, make a shallow incision down the back, scrape out the usually dark intestinal track and discard).
- Over medium-high heat, set a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet and spoon in 1½ tablespoons of oil (but not the garlic) from the mojo. Add half of the shrimp to the skillet, sprinkle generously with salt, then stir gently and continuously until shrimp are just cooked through, 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in cilantro or parsley if desired.
- Scoop cooked shrimp onto deep serving platter. Repeat steps for cooking shrimp with the remaining half and another 1½ tablespoons of the garlicky oil. When all the shrimp are cooked, use a slotted spoon to scoop out the warm bits of garlic and chiles from the pan, and douse them over shrimp. (You may have as much as 1/3 cup of the oil leftover, for which you'll be grateful -- it's wonderful for sautéeing practically anything).
- If you're a garlic lover, you're about to have the treat of your life. Serve with lime wedges to add sparkle.