Shellfish such as river shrimp and crawfish are found in abundance in the many rivers that run through the vanilla growing region of eastern Mexico. Called xanath in the Totonac language, shrimp are particularly delicious when combined with the flavor of vanilla. This recipe calls for vanilla extract, a product prepared by forcing alcohol through liquified vanilla pods. Artificially flavored vanilla extract is extremely inferior to the natural product, and would be a poor substitute for the real thing in this recipe.
Here in Mexico, the best vanilla extract is labeled Ligitamo de Papantla, to indicate its origin in the finest vanilla-producing area.
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 medium white onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons freshly-ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Marinate the shrimp in a mixture of the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, vanilla, salt and pepper in a non-reactive container for 1 1/2-2 hours, refrigerated.
Melt the butter in a large skillet with the olive oil and saute the shrimp mixture, turning frequently, until the shrimp are just pink.
At this point, more vanilla extract may be added to taste.
Transfer the shrimp to a dish and add the wine and chicken broth to the skillet, cooking until the wine has reduced and the sauce thickened.
Place the shrimp in the skillet with the sauce and cook quickly until just heated through.
Overcooking shrimp results in a significant loss of flavor.
This dish is nicely accompanied by white rice, a simple, lightly-dressed green salad and French rolls or bolillos.
Vanilla: a Mexican native regains its reputation