Camarones Embarazados, the grilled shrimp recipe that brings you the beach – Lowell Sun
PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – One should try to miss the embarazados camarones on a walk along the beaches of Banderas Bay. Makeshift grates embedded in bricks or rocks, exhaling the last puffs of smoke from morning cooking sessions, dot the banks. Dipped in a rich browned red adobo sauce, the shrimp with heads are threaded onto extra-long skewers, grilled until crisp and stuck in mounds of sand, tempting passers-by.
Ask the locals and they’ll tell you that embarazados camarones are part of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s “desde siempre” culture – forever.
Camarones embarazados translates to pregnant shrimp in Spanish, but crustaceans do not bear eggs. The name is a play on words: “En vara” means on a stick, and “asado” means roast. When you put it all together, “en vara asado” looks a lot like “embarazado”. The dish, with its fun, memorable name and tasty adobo, is making its way to indoor dining rooms.
The fever for them has spread beyond the bay, which affects the states of Jalisco and Nayarit. Variations can be found along the Pacific coast of Mexico and in the Yucatan Peninsula.
There are as many versions of adobo as there are cooks, and we all hold our adobo recipes as close to our hearts as a good secret.
Most adobos are a concoction of several kinds of dried peppers and spices, with a hint of vinegar. But it’s the addition of Mexican chocolate that makes some embarazados camarones vendors sell over and over again, Nuevo Vallarta cook and waiter Oscar Rodriguez said in a tone that almost sounded like a whisper.
But the essence of the dish remains unpretentious: messy, fresh shrimp that tastes so good you’ll want to eat the heads, shells, tails and everything in between.
Camarones Embarazados (Grilled Adobo Shrimps)
Total time: 1 hour, plus cooling and marinating
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 1 pound of ripe tomatoes
- 4 dried guajillo peppers, hulled and seeded
- 2 to 3 dried arbol peppers, hulled
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 shallots, white and light green parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 ounces of Mexican chocolate (see Tip), grated
- 1 teaspoon kosher coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
- 2 pounds large shrimp with or without head, with or without shell
- Lime wedges, for serving
1. In a medium saucepan, combine whole tomatoes, guajillo peppers, arbol peppers and garlic cloves, and cover with 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the tomatoes are very soft and their skins begin to break, 8 to 10 minutes. (The peppers should rehydrate and plump.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a blender and add the scallions, oregano, allspice, cumin, thyme, vinegar , butter, Mexican chocolate and salt. (Discard the cooking water.) Puree until completely smooth, then scrape the adobo into a large bowl and let cool completely.
2. Place the shrimp in the bowl with the cooled adobo and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
3. When ready to eat, take the shrimp out of the refrigerator. Prepare an outdoor charcoal or gas barbecue for direct cooking over high heat. Thread the shrimp onto skewers and place them on a baking sheet. If you are using shrimp with head or with shells, insert the skewer where the head meets the body, thread the skewer through the body while straightening it, then push it by the tail. If using peeled shrimp, thread the skewer through the top and bottom of the shrimp without passing it lengthwise. Once all are skewered, sprinkle the shrimp generously with more adobo (reserve a little to serve) and sprinkle a little salt on top.
4. Scrape the remaining adobo into a small saucepan or skillet and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.
5. Place the skewers on the hot grill rack. For the shrimp with the head on, cook, turning once, until the shells are crisp, golden and lightly charred, and the bodies are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. For the peeled headless shrimp, grill about 3 minutes per side and for the peeled shrimp, about 2 minutes per side. (If you are using a gas grill, close the lid between the flaps.)
6. Transfer the skewers to a platter and serve with the reserved adobo sauce and lime wedges. Let everyone eat by dipping the shrimp in the adobo sauce and squeezing some fresh lime juice on top. Shrimp can be eaten in their entirety – heads, shells, tails and everything in between – or peeled.
Tip: If you can’t find Mexican chocolate, replace it with 2 ounces of grated bittersweet chocolate mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of ground cinnamon or ground cinnamon.