Quick-fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic
3/4 C. peeled whole garlic cloves (about 2 large heads)
1 C. good-quality oil, preferably extra-virgin olive oil
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 pounds (about 48) medium-large shrimp, peeled
3 T. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Chop garlic with a sharp knife into 1/8-inch bits, or drop the cloves through the feed tube of a running food processor and process until the pieces are roughly 1/8 inch. You should have about 1/2 cup chopped garlic.
Scoop into a 1-quart sauce-pan, add oil (you need it all for even cooking) and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and set over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally as mixture comes barely to a simmer (there should be just a hint of movement on the surface of the oil). Adjust heat to the lowest possible setting to keep the mixture at that gentle simmer (bubbles will rise in the pot like mineral water). Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is soft and pale golden (the color of light brown sugar), about 30 minutes. The slower the cooking, the sweeter the garlic.
Squeeze the juice of 1 of the limes into the pan; simmer until most of the juice has evaporated or been absorbed into the garlic, about 5 minutes. Stir in chiles. Add a little more salt if necessary. Keep the pan over low heat so that the garlic will be warm when the shrimp are ready. Cut remaining 2 limes into wedges, scoop into a serving bowl and set on the table.
Devein shrimp if you wish: One by one, lay the shrimp on your work surface, make a shallow incision down the back and scrape out the (usually) dark intestinal track. Set a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; spoon in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the flavored oil (but not the garlic) from the saucepan. Add half of the shrimp, sprinkle generously with salt, then stir gently and continuously until the shrimp are just cooked through, 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Scoop shrimp onto a deep serving platter. Repeat with the remaining shrimp and another 11/2 tablespoons of the garlicky oil.
When all of the shrimp are cooked, use a slotted spoon to scoop out the warm bits of garlic and chiles from the pan, and scatter them over the shrimp. Serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges.
Yield: 6 generous servings.
Note: You may have as much as 1/3 cup of the oil left over, for which you’ll be grateful — it’s wonderful for sauteing practically anything. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.