I have a soft spot for smoky chili peppers. Some, like Fresno chilies, have a natural hint of smokiness, making them a fresh favorite for slicing into fermented cabbage slaw or chopping into zucchini relish. Other peppers are actually smoked. Take some fresh jalapenos, let them ripen until red and then smoke them to make your own chipotles.
At the store, canned chipotles typically come in adobo sauce, made with yet more chiles that go by different names when fresh and dried. Adobo sauce often uses naturally smoky ancho peppers, the dried form of poblanos, plus fairly mild guajillo peppers, the dried form of mirasols. I’ve had difficulty finding mirasol pepper starts locally, but jalapenos and poblanos are both readily available if you want to plan a chipotle garden for next season.
I use chipotles in many recipes, from canned salsas to fried rice to creamy soups. Marinade captures more of their smokiness than their heat, but you can always use less. An open can or homemade jar of chipotles in adobo keeps for weeks in the refrigerator. For longer storage, drop one chili into each section of an ice tray, top with adobo and freeze into cubes.
The salting step helps to keep the shrimp moist and tender. For even more tenderness, grill the shrimp in their shells and then peel them at the table – but expect sticky fingers. Whether you salt and grill the shrimp peeled or with the shell on, resist rinsing between brining and marinating to keep the full shrimp flavor. Shrimp can sit in the marinade for as little as 15 minutes or as long as an hour; other meat or vegetables might benefit from more or less time.
Chipotle Grilled Shrimp
1-1/2 pounds large raw shrimp
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion
3 cloves roasted or fresh garlic
2 tablespoons chipotle chilies in adobo
2 tablespoons dry white wine or water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
Defrost the shrimp under cold running water if frozen, and then remove the shells. Sprinkle the salt on the shrimp; set them in the refrigerator to brine for about 15 minutes.
In a food processor or blender, place the chopped tomatoes and onion. Add the garlic, chilies and adobo, wine, oil, sugar, pepper and cloves. Process the marinade to a medium-smooth puree.
Drain any liquid from the shrimp, pour the marinade over them and let sit in the refrigerator for 15 to 60 minutes. Soak eight bamboo skewers in cold water for about 20 minutes.
Heat the grill until very hot. Thread the shrimp onto the soaked skewers, nesting them as closely together as possible. If desired, brush extra marinade on both sides. Lightly oil the grill grate, and then lay on the skewers and cook for two minutes per side, until the shrimp become opaque and lightly charred. Serve immediately.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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