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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Delectable Shrimp and Calamari in Pepper Sauce with Homemade Plantain Chips

Over Spring Break, I tried Bolivian food at this restaurant nearby (I am still in Miami) that I've had on my list since I randomly passed by it while working as a census taker in Little Havana last summer.  I have never had Bolivian food and had no clue what to expect.  I must say, I was absolutely amazed.  I can't believe you don't hear more about Bolivian food.  It's delicious!  

Bolivian food has a distinctly indigenous Andean flair--most dishes contain potatoes in some form with easy-over eggs, there's a heavy use of peppers (not necessarily hot), and most dishes are accompanied with rice as well.  The dish I had was asado borracho, which came with the characteristically Bolivian chorrellana, which is a sauce made of julienned peppers and onions with tomato.  

I've been craving seafood this week, but I've also had a taste for that delicious, peppery, slightly smoky, lightly spicy sauce.  I decided that I would try to recreate it using what I had at home and make a seafood dish with it.  Voila shrimp and calamari in pepper sauce :)!  I must admit, the flavors were spot on!  I loved how the combo of peppers created a nice layered burn--some of it was a slow burn, some was a smoky burn, and some was a a more delayed burn, and the sweet peppers created a wonderful balance.  

Here is a photo of the inspiration for my dish, Las Americas Restaurant's asado borracho (drunken grilled steak on a bed of fried potato rounds topped with a fried egg and chorrellana sauce with a side of toasty grilled hot dog, yes hot dog).

So, if you've never had Bolivian food before, here's your chance to try something similar; if you're looking for something new to do with seafood, this is for you, too.  Serve with white rice and, if you like, throw in an easy-over egg to make it more authentic.  Bolivians don't seem big on seafood, by the way, likely because they're landlocked.  The seafood is my own thing.  Don't forget the mariquitas (plaintain chips ;).  I had a huge craving, so I threw that in, too.


1 lb of shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/3 lb of calamari
red bell pepper, julienned (maybe 6 sticks)
green bell pepper, julienned (maybe 8 sticks) 
yellow bell pepper, julienned (maybe 6 sticks
Hungarian pepper (in reg. supermarket, use Cubanelle if you don't see it), julienned (about 5 sticks)
2 thai peppers, sliced as thinly as possible on a bias
about 6 thin slices of jalapeño, cut on bias
1/3 habanero pepper, julienned as finely as possible

1 small onion, julienned
4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 full-size can of diced tomatoes (not flavored, Hunt's brand recommended)
2 TB of smoked pork chop or smoked ham, in small cubes
1/8 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Sautee the garlic in the olive oil over low heat for a minute or two to get the flavor into the oil.  Don't cut back on the oil amount.  You'll need it to sautee all of the veggies.  The point of adding it all in the beginning is to let the garlic flavor seep into it.  

Add in the onions and bring up the heat to medium low.

Toss the onions in the oil until coated.  Sautee until mildly softened and add peppers.  You want to let the onions soften first so that they are near caramelization by the time the peppers are cooked, and they will release more sweetness.  Salt and sautee until softened.  

Stir in pork and sautee for a minute or two to let flavors blend.

Add the can of tomatoes, re-salt, blend everything together, and turn the heat up to medium.  Let sautee a minute or two so that the flavors blend.  

Add in the shrimp only, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  They should only be half-way done at this point.

Give everything a gentle stir and add in the calamari.  Cook no more than 5 minutes, until  the seafood is cooked.  Be sure that throughout the whole process of cooking the seafood that you never have a full boil going.  You just want a simmer to avoid overcooking the seafood.  Calamari should be tender, not chewy when done and shrimp should be bright pink and slightly curled, but not in a ring when it reaches doneness.  If all of the shrimp form a ring, they are likely overcooked.

Plantain Chips (Mariquitas)
1 pot of oil 
1 plantain, sliced thinly, either on a bias or in rounds
1 clove of garlic cut into three pieces

Heat oil with garlic slices over medium high heat.  Meanwhile, soak plantain slices in salt water to remove sticky residue and flavor the chips.  Once the oil is ready, pat the plantain slices dry and add the one-by-one into the oil, stirring constantly.  Let the chips fry until golden brown and crispy.  Be sure to stir constantly as they can and will stick if you don't.  After the first minute or so of frying, remove the garlic, as it has already released it's flavor and you don't want it to begin to get bitter.

Remove the chips from the oil and let drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.  Enjoy their crispy, garlicky goodness!!  No need to add salt since they were soaked in salt water and are already perfectly seasoned ;).  If you so desire, serve with Cuban mojo sauce.  Here is a recipe  Just be sure that you're using mariquita mojo (not the one with all of the herbs that you use to marinade).

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