This is one of my favorite outdoor party foods—and guests seem to agree. No matter what else I’m serving, the zesty, grilled shrimp are always eaten first, but not before they’re dipped and tipped with the spicy tomatillo-garlic salsa.
Grilled Shrimp with Tomatillo Salsa
The colorful combination of rosy shrimp and green salsa also make this an eye-catching first course. I like to divide it into individual servings, garnishing each with crumbly queso fresco.
Colorful green salsas using fresh tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno pepper, and cilantro are popular and versatile sauces in Mexico. Salsa verde enlivens all kinds of great and everyday dishes, and good, fresh garlic (especially the red-skinned hardneck variety found in the summertime) is fundamental to every rendition. This is the version I like best. But go ahead and experiment with your own proportions.
Salsa (serves 4)
1/2 pound fresh tomatillos (about 7 medium), husked and stemmed (see Note)
1 large garlic clove, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, preferably kosher
1 small to medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chopped white onion
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons or more fresh lime juice
12 to 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails left intact
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons mild chili pepper, such as ancho
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Coarse salt, preferably kosher, and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese (optional)
To make the salsa:
In a medium pot of boiling salted water, cook the tomatillos for 4 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the garlic with the salt and mince, pressing the garlic into the salt with the flat of the knife to form a rough paste. Transfer to a blender and add the jalapeño, onion, cilantro, cumin, and lime juice. Coarsely chop the tomatillos and transfer to the blender. Process until blended, with small chunky pieces evident. Transfer to a bowl and remove any large slivers of tomatillo skin. Set aside to cool to room temperature, or cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Taste and adjust the seasoning with lime juice. (The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead.)
To prepare the shrimp:
Prepare the barbecue to medium-high heat. Arrange the shrimp in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder and garlic powder. Sprinkle the shrimp with half the chili powder mixture. Turn the shrimp over and sprinkle with the remaining chili powder mixture. Grill the shrimp until just cooked, about 2 minutes per side. Remove and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the tomatillo sauce in the center of a small plate. Arrange 4 shrimp on top. Sprinkle with queso fresco, if desired, and serve.
(Note: Called tomate verde (green tomato) in Mexico, tomatillos are members of the gooseberry family. They have a papery husk that needs to be peeled off before you use them. In Zupan’s produce section, look for medium to small tomatillos that have begun to take on a yellowish tinge and are slightly soft.)
-Sara Perry, Indulge, May/June 2009