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Here’s some weird food science. Alcohol in a recipe heightens the flavor of the other ingredients even if you don’t end up tasting the alcohol itself. Shirley Corrriher, a food scientist, cookbook author, and frequent guest on my show, had explained to me more then once why this is so. I still don’t understand the science of it, but it is demonstrably true. How else do you explain the superior flavor of penne alla vodka? Vodka itself has no flavor. Another example is my housekeeper Magda’s Chicken Fricaseee, which she makes for us occasionally. It is a quick sauté with boneless chicken and tomatoes and usually it is delicious. But one night it just wasn’t as good as usual. The next day Magda told me she couldn’t find white wine, so she made it without. What a difference! I didn’t know she’d ever put wine in the dish, but I sure missed it when it was gone. Unlike Vodka, tequila has flavor, although you won’t taste it in this recipe. You will taste the shrimp, mango, and salsa, and the flavors will be booming—thanks to the otherwise undetectable tequila.
This is a sunny summer dish, but you could serve it in the dead of winter and be happy. Mangos are available almost all year round these days.
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup silver or white tequila
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing the tortillas
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Three 6-inch tortillas
1 small mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small shallot, minced
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
Serves 4 to 6
Pat the shrimp dry and season with salt and pepper. Combine the marmalade and tequila in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the marmalade has dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the 1/4 cup lime juice, the garlic, pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Transfer the marinade to a zippered plastic bag. Add the shrimp, seal the bag, and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning over once or twice.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix together the 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cumin, and the chili powder. Brush the tortillas with a thin coating of oil and sprinkle with the seasoned salt mixture. Cut the tortillas into 6 wedges each and place on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and crispy, 7 to 9 minutes.
Combine the mango, shallot, jalapeño, mint, and remaining 3 tablespoons lime juice in a small bowl. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. You should have about 1 1/4 cups salsa.
Remove the shrimp from the bag and pat very dry with paper towels. Place the marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by half. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add half the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, often, until the shrimp are light pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl; add the remaining oil and shrimp to the skillet and sauté, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the reduced marinade and shrimp from the bowl and toss to coat.
Divide the shrimp among plates. Arrange some of the tortilla chips around each portion and top with a spoonful of the salsa. Serve any remaining salsa on the side.
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