I have to pace myself with Rick Bayless recipes, or this column would quickly turn into a forum exclusively dedicated to his work. But as I was watching his Mexico: One Plate at a Time program on a lazy Saturday, I came across a recipe that looked a little too good to ignore. The main focus of the show was tamales, but it was the simple bowl of dark chile shrimp soup that immediately drew my attention. It looked both simple to prepare and absolutely loaded with complex chile flavor. I'm a sucker for this stuff.
The base of the soup is made up of dried pasilla chiles (an ingredient I use often) and dried shrimp (one I, um, don't). I have seen them before at my local Mexican market but couldn't imagine how I'd use the things. Turns out you just chuck them in whole, blend them up, and then they disappear into the abyss, only leaving their slightly fishy, nutty flavor behind.
Don't forget about the lime juice—it adds a much needed brightness to the intriguing dish. Some avocado wouldn't hurt either.
- Yield:4 to 6
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 dried pasilla chiles, stems and seed removed, cut into 1-inch strips
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
- 1 ounce dried shrimp
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound red potatoes (about 4), cut into 1/4-inch chunks
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch chunks
- 2 sprigs of epazote
- 1 pound shrimp (medium-small), peeled and deveined
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
Pour the olive oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the chiles and the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until they are very fragrant, about one minute.
Add the dried shrimp along with 1 quart of the stock. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
Carefully pour mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Be careful. Blend in batches. Pour the soup back in the pot through a strainer, to remove all the bits of hard chile skin.
Pour in the other quart of chicken stock. Dump in the potatoes, carrots, and the epazote. Season the stock with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the shrimp, turn off the heat, and wait for one minute. Fish out the sprigs of epazote and discard. Ladle some of the soup into a bowl, season with salt, and squeeze in some fresh lime juice.