Shrimp and Red Chile Soup

While visiting the butchershop of my favorite Latino Grocery last week, I noticed bags of large, dried shrimp sitting on the meat counter. They shrimp had been left in their shells when they were dried, so they looked particularly beautiful.  I knew that the dried shrimp would last for months or longer, so I picked up a bag and started turning over ideas in my head.

When I got home, I broke in to one of the shrimp and gave it a taste.  It was surprisingly sweet, different from the more pungent, small dried shrimp I’ve used in the past for Vietnamese and Thai dishes. With such a mild, friendly flavor, I knew I should make a dish that would allow the dried shrimp to really shine through.

I decided on a traditional, Mexican-style red chile soup with guajillo chiles, onion, and fire-roasted tomatoes, and I added the dried shrimp to the broth while it simmered to give it an extra-rich flavor. I then pureed everything together, strained the broth to ensure the silkiest texture, and used it as a base for this delicious Shrimp and Red Chile Soup.

Shrimp and Red Chile Soup
*makes 6 – 8 servings*

5 guajillo chiles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, large dice
5 – 6 large garlic cloves, flattened
One 28 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes (whole peeled or diced)
6 large, dried shrimp (camaron entero – find them here or here)
4 C. water
sea salt

To finish soup:
3 C. chicken broth or water
4 medium Russet potatoes, medium dice
1 # raw shrimp
sea salt to taste

avocado, diced onion, and sour cream for garnish

Begin by putting on a kettle of water to boil. Toast the guajillos is a hot, dry pan for about 20 seconds per side, pressing down on them with a spatula until they darken slightly. Transfer them to a bowl or baking dish and cover them with the boiling water as well as something heavy to keep them submerged.  Allow them to soften for at least 30 minutes (this step can be done several hours ahead).

To start the broth, saute the onions and the smashed garlic cloves in the olive oil over medium-low heat until very soft, about 10 minutes.  Season with 2 very generous pinches of salt and add the tomatoes (break them up gently with your hands if they are whole), the dried shrimp, and 4 cups of water.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the broth to simmer for about one hour.

Allow the broth to cool slightly and then puree it very thoroughly in a blender in 2 or 3 batches. After each batch, pass the broth through a fine sieve forcing it through with a spatula to remove all of the tiny bits of shell from the shrimp. This concentrated broth can be kept refrigerated for up to 3 days until you’re ready to make the soup, or frozen for up to 3 months.

To make the soup, dilute the broth with an additional 3 cups of broth or cold water.  Add the diced potatoes while the broth is still cool and bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat. Once boiling, remove the lid and reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add the shrimp (shells can be on or off – your choice) and simmer for just 2 – 3 more minutes until the shrimp are just cooked. Season to taste with salt (the soup will surely need more if you used water to dilute, less if you used broth).

Ladle the soup into bowls and swirl a spoonful of sour cream into each. Top with avocado chunks and diced onion, and serve with chips or tortillas.


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