Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mexican shrimp cocktail

I'm making shrimp cocktail tonight but it must be chilled first. It's not ready. Tomorrow I'll add diced avocado and maybe some bread and butter pickle juice. I don't know yet.

Mine is hot. You wouldn't like that. Layered with chiles. There is one fresh jalapeño, cayenne powder, and habanero sauce that comes in the little jars like Tobasco, except this is different. Not terribly hot but somewhat flowery flavor. Somehow they tone down the habanero heat and get its flavor.

It's a fantastic combination of vegetables; grape tomatoes, sweet onion, English cucumber, celery and sweet red bell pepper. This time I added fresh grated ginger. But no horseradish, nor Worcester sauce, and no soy.

I tasted it and it's already great even though it's not cold yet.

And now I will regale you with two Mexican shrimp cocktail related stories.

The first time I saw the stuff I was very young and traveling with a pal to Mazatlán we arrived at night starved. We walked down the street near the beach and went into an outdoor bar, a covered patio where music was playing and Christmas lights were draped for decoration. The only thing they were serving that late was this style shrimp cocktail. It looked like a sundae glass filled with dishwater with loose chunks of bits of unidentified material floating around in it. With only the regular type shrimp cocktail as model we were unified in immediate opinion, "no way, José."  

What a couple of dummkopfs. We hadn't a clue what the stuff really is. Just judgment by the sight of it.

A few years ago I took Ed Merrill to El Tejado. Actually, he drove me in his new Mercedes. We've been friends since we were both boys. He has an identical twin. And I mean identical. I found that place on my own by exploring for comida muy auténtica. The first few times I went there I was the only gringo in the place. It was very low class, no class, actually, but I loved the food there. It matched what I experienced in Mexico. I took my friends there and to a person they all hated it. Even the ones who traveled to Mexico. All of them bitched the whole time we were there. One after another I tried introducing the place to my friends and the only people who liked going there were my own family. My whole family likes grungy dives like that, salsa splotches on the paper menu, blown out booths, rickety chairs, careless waitresses, surly bartender, and mounted fish lining the walls. A lot of them. Those trophy fish fascinated me. They were mounted to appear as if in their environment. Cheap Mexican decorations strung all over the place. Mexican bands playing music on weekend nights. And you can tell young lads would dress up in their finest to take their girl for a date ther. Shined cowboy boots, pressed Levis, clean white shirt, large silver buckle belt, and exceedingly gracious. Stilted. And everyone speaking Spanish. I love it. But none of my pissy friends did. 

Then they were declared best Mexican food in Denver by Westword newspaper and boom the whole place became gentrified. The menus changed, the clientele became all preppies, the trophy fish were gone, the menus were laminated, the menu changed to appeal more to yuppie middle class types. All my friends immediately accepted the place on Westword's authority. It's not the same place anymore, but still my favorite Mexican restaurant. They have a red snapper on their menu, you get the whole fish on a plate, It extends beyond the platter. They score it both sides cross hatched and dust it with corn flour coating so when it fries in oil the cuts they make expand and separate, sort of bloom open as breaded fish chunks that you pull out individually until there's nothing but bone. One side satisfies, and then there's a whole other side! The plate is loaded with pleasantries, guacamole, rice, beans, the whole bit. It's the best thing on there menu. The best!

You should go there. 

El Tejado, the roof. 

So, Ed and I are sitting opposite each other in a booth we are finished with our meal. Ed, bless him, he's open to anything. You'd think that he'd be snobbish about food, you'd think that he'd be particular, he sounds that way. He sounds like the character Thurston Howell III. It puts people off, but he's totally authentic. The only other people in the whole place that afternoon between lunch and dinner is another table of very dark skinned exceedingly rough looking Mexican middle aged men sitting around a circular table. Rough! They all look like genuine bandoleros, all it would take is sombreros and bandoliers crossing their chests. They looked mean. By appearances they looked roughed up, dirty, amoral, and mean. Were I to use the bathroom behind them I would cut a very wide arc around their table to avoid the whole party. The table radiated "keep away." They looked like they'd kill you at the slightest offense. 

I said to Ed, "See that tall glass of red stuff that guy is eating that looks like a sundae? That's a shrimp cocktail." 

Ed goes, "Really?"

I go, "Yup. And although it doesn't look like much, it's actually surprisingly good." 

Ed goes, "Really? We should try it next time." 

We get up to leave and Ed walks directly to their table and I'm mortified. 

He address the unshaven, dirty, rough looking fat guy with the shrimp cocktail, "Aaay, my friend here Bobby says that you're eating a shrimp cocktail and he said it's actually very good." 

The table of six bandoleros stopped dead. They stared at Ed and me, up at our faces, down to our shoes, back to our faces. They were stunned. They were confused. You could actually hear the gears in their heads spinning, "WTF are these two gringos doing, is this some kind of prank, or what?" All six were nonplussed. There was a very long uncomfortable silence. Ed chirps, "Well, is it? Is your shrimp cocktail so good as Bobby says that it is?" The fat guy realizes this not a joke, that we're just two curious dopes. Realizing the situation Ed created by his intrusion is harmless. he smiles broadly ear to ear, he shows all of his brilliant white teeth. "Yes! Yes, it is very good. Here, try some." 

We were full, we both refused, but the big ugly guy insisted, he pushed his sundae glass toward us and offered again. The rest at the table concurred, yes, they've all had it before, it really is worth trying. You two should try it.  Here, try it. Try it. Try it. 

But we were full. "That's okay. Thank you very much for offering. You're too kind. We'll order that next time we're here. Thank you so much for the information. We left. 

Back inside his car, Ed is showing off all the things it can do. The thing is loaded with features I'd never expect. It really is an impressive automobile. He's like a kid with a new toy showing it off. He's having a great time. Lookie, look at this mirror. See what this does? I say, "You know, Ed, you amaze me sometimes. You do." 

"How so, Bobby?" 

"I'd have avoided that table of roughnecks like the plague. They look threatening to me. They're scary looking. But you walked right up and addressed the whole table cold." 

He thought a moment. "Well, you see, Bobby, appearance doesn't count. I find that Mexicans are a very kind and gentle people."


Synova said...

It's sort of interesting how the way people "find" other people, often seems to depend most on them rather than the people they find.


Also, shrimp cocktails are pretty good.

Synova said...

Also... it's not a sort of shrimp ceviche? (Looks up how to spell ceviche, finds recipes.) Oh, yes. That's it.

Chip Ahoy said...

Yes, it sort of is kind of like ceviche. The shrimp is undercooked to allow lime and tomato acids to finish the job, and sometimes they put little octopus pieces in it. Or whatever bits their approach calls for. You'll notice recipes vary widely. The difference is that it's all floating around in a liquid, contrasted with the familiar style we grew up with, cooked naked shrimp surrounding a bowl of the red menace, I meant to say, catsup with horseradish in it.

Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

How about a Danish-Mexican dinner at $600 a pop? (that includes wine but not the tip and tax)