Have you ever been in a Mexican Cantina? Cantinas are establishments of long-standing tradition, and up until recent years, they were the domain of men. You heard me. Men only - no dogs, women, beggars or men in uniform (referring to soldiers) allowed, in that specific order. Cantinas started to appear around the 1850’s, and not until 130 years later, women were finally admitted. At first, these gutsy women patrons were frowned upon, but as years went by, Cantinas have become great places to visit for excellent drinks and phenomenal food - for men and women alike.
Since the early days, Cantinas have offered alcohol and food, and the purpose of that food is to open the appetite. Among the typical dishes you will find traditional “antojitos” like Sopes, Gorditas and Picaditas, Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce, Carnitas and Quesadillas, among many others. Most Cantinas have excellent Chefs, and once a week they offer more complex dishes like Cabrito and Pozole. Menudo and Caldo de Camarón are always on the menu for those who need to nurse a hangover.
Full-flavoured, a bit spicy and totally satisfying, this Caldo de Camarón is the perfect soup. You can serve it cantina-style in tiny shot glasses or small cups, or go all-out-and-fancy for your dinner guests and serve larger portions in soup bowls.
Ingredients for this soup are readily available at your grocery store. In Mexico, we use large dried shrimp for this recipe. If you can’t find them, it is perfectly acceptable to use smaller dried shrimp. As with many dishes, this soup is much better if served one day after it’s made. You can simply garnish with chopped Serrano chile and onion, but make it amazing by garnishing with a few sautéed shrimp. Buen Provecho!
Caldo de Camarón Cantinero
Shrimp Soup, Cantina Style
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped (2/3 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 bay leaves
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped (1 ½ cups)
3 guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and de-veined
3 tomatoes, chopped (3 cups)
1 cup tiny dried shrimp
4 cups water
2 Tbsp fresh epazote leaves, or 1 tsp dried
1-2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
½ cup chopped onion
1-2 serrano chiles, minced
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sautéed shrimp for garnish, optional
In large saucepan, heat vegetable oil. Add onion and celery. Sauté for 2 minutes, until vegetables start to soften. Add carrots and cook 3 minutes longer. Add garlic and bay leaves. Cook another 2 minutes. Add potato and guajillo chiles. Stir 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, until they start to break down. Add shrimp, 4 cups water and epazote leaves. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
Place cooked mixture in blender container. Process until very smooth. Strain through a sieve, pressing down on solids to get the most out of the cooked mass. In same stock pot, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil. Pour in strained mixture. Simmer, slowly, adding salt ONLY if necessary, 10-15 minutes, to allow flavors to blend.
Serve hot, garnished with chopped onion and serrano chile, and squeeze in a healthy dose of lime juice. If you want, decorate bowl with a few sautéed shrimp.
This recipe was first published at www.thelatinkitchen.com