Quinoa Crusted Shrimp with Chipotle Mayo
It feels like over the last few years, Americans have gotten really smart about the health benefits and cooking of quinoa (and, in reality, about a lot of the ancient grains / foods that are showing up in supermarkets). Quinoa, in particular, has gotten a lot of attention because it’s a complete protein source, high in fiber and minerals and is gluten-free. The “pseudograin” is actually native to the Andes and a big part of the diet out there, so while I was in Peru a few weeks back, I was a bit obsessed with learning traditional quinoa recipes.
I had the opportunity to cook with a few chefs in the Sacred Valley, and they gave me their creative interpretations of the grain – using it in surprisingly delicious, brothy soups, cooking it like a risotto in a dish called “quinotto”, and even sweet, in a dessert that’s not unlike a frozen rice pudding. I too wanted to put my spin on it, so I thought replacing traditional breading for fried shrimp with quinoa would create a healthier (but still super flavorful) option.
And this recipe is almost gluten-free. You can easily replace the all-purpose flour in this recipe with rice flour, and you are good to go. One of the chilies used in Peruvian cooking (the “ajis” as they call it) is aji panca, a dried, smoky chili which I think has a similar flavor profile to the chipotle. I thought a creamy, homemade mayo spiked with chipotle pepper would be the perfect accompaniment to this shrimp. The quinoa crust is nutty, crunchy and satisfying and tastes heavenly with a bit of smoky, spicy mayo….Enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6
For the shrimp:
½ cup flour
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
¾ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup raw quinoa*
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Olive or vegetable oil, for frying
For the chipotle mayo:
Yields ¾ cup
1 egg yolk
1 garlic clove
½ tsp mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
150 mL olive oil
generous pinch of salt
1 chipotle in adobo sauce
Let’s start by quinoa-crusting the shrimp. Set up 3 bowls and a baking sheet with a rack on top. In the first bowl, thoroughly mix together the flour with the salt and all of the ground spices. The second bowl will have the beaten eggs, and the third bowl, the quinoa. For each shrimp, holding by the tail dip them in the flour mixture, eggs, and then quinoa – shaking off excess at each stage. Place on the rack on the baking sheet and set in the fridge while heating the oil.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 375° – 380° F. The key here is that the oil has to be hot enough or the quinoa won’t cook through. It should be crisp but not taste raw. You want to work in batches so the oil temperature doesn’t drop too much – the overall goal is to keep the temperature above 360° F for the duration of cooking. Fry shrimp for 3 minutes and transfer to another rack on a baking sheet. Immediately, season with a bit of salt while it’s hot out of the oil.
For the mayo, in a food processor or a blender, blend together the egg yolk with the garlic clove, mustard, and lemon juice. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until fully incorporated. Add the chipotle and blend until uniform.
Serve shrimp hot with a side of the chipotle mayo.
*I used a combination of red and white quinoa here (and would have used black as well had I found it). You can use whatever variety you have on hand.