Spice It Up!
On the seventh day of my ten day trip to San Juan, I FINALLY had stuffed mofongo at an excellent grill called El Asador near San Juan's SOFO (south of Fortaleza) district. Known for it's phenomenal restaurants, El Asador, though it's not one of the heavy hitter restaurants, was a fantastic grillm reminicent of dining in a wine cellar. The mofongo was amazing. Out of this world, even. I had mine stuffed with chicken, and also tasted my sister's relleno de camarones. The shrimp beefed up the elegance factor, making it more than impressive.
After a lot of trial (but no real error -- all the attempts were tasty), I came up with this similar version. Not only was the relleno gorgeous, it elicited an "Oh! Wow! This is crazy-good!" from my husband. It was so good that he offered to wash the dishes, and with plantains crusted to the mortar, that was big. The hint of pork from the bacon and the distinctively Puerto Rican flavors in the sauce make for one memorable meal. Traditionally, stuffed mofongo is just that, rolled into a ball, or dumpling with the meat inside. The open, bowl shape makes for a better balance of the mashed plantain mixture and the shrimp, and just looks pretty on a plate. Follow the same recipe for the sauce, but replace the shrimp with chicken if you'd like!
2 strips bacon
3 green plantains
2 green onions
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups plus 1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cups chicken stock
For the Shrimp:
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, shelled and deveined
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, minced
2 tbsp chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tbsp adobo (1 tsp each: cumin, salt, onion powder, garlic powder)
1 packet Sazon Goya with achiote or 1/2 tsp achiote paste
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1. Boil 2 cups of chicken stock and add plantains to precook for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the bacon slices in a pan, and drain on paper towels. Remove plantains and reserve stock, then add to the rendered bacon fat and cook until golden brown. Flip over and add sliced green onions and salt. You can complete this process in two batches if necessary. If pan becomes dry, add a few tablespoons of the remaining stock to deglaze and loosen the plantains.
2. Remove plantains and mash in a mortar and pestle or with a potato masher, adding the slices of bacon and 2 tbsp of the sauce from the shrimp (see below). Pour in 1/4 cup chicken stock, or more to maintain a smooth, yet thick consistency.
3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan over medium heat and cook onion, bell pepper, cilantro and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add adobo and Sazon Goya and cook, stirring until blended.
4. Pour in tomato sauce, vinegar and stock and cook for an additional 3 minutes, lowering heat to a simmer.
5. Add shrimp and cook for 5 minutes, or until shrimp are pink throughout. (If you are using chicken, cut the raw breasts into bite-size pieces and increase the cooking time to about 8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.)
6. Shape plantains into 4 individual bowls (see photo below) and divide shrimp among each one. Spoon extra sauce over the bowl and garnish with cilantro and red pepper.
Other recipes by Carolyn:
Camarones a la Criolla (Shrimp Creole Style)
Bistec Encebollado (Steak and Onions)
Coctel de Camarones (Shrimp Cocktail)
Tacos de Carnitas
Sopa de Lentejas (Lentil Soup)
Pan de Bono
Huachinango a la Veracruzana (Snapper Veracruz)
Mil Colones Stew