Last February, Sam and I had an amazing time in Rincón, Puerto Rico. Now that it’s summer in NYC, it FEELS like Puerto Rico– minus the palm trees, blue seas, and piña coladas, of course, meaning, it just feels HOT. But in an effort to capture some of that Caribbean magic, I made mofongo, a dish of mashed plantains that was served everywhere we went in PR. Traditionally, the plantains are mashed in a pilón, a large mortar in which they are also served. Meat, fish or seafood in a rich garlicky sauce is often served inside the well of plantains. I don’t have a pilón, or a mortar that is big enough for the job, so I mashed mine in a bowl with a potato masher, and served it with shrimp.
Mofongo with Shrimp
Authentic mofongo recipes always call for pork cracklings. Although I’m sure I unknowingly ate some in Puerto Rico, I don’t consciously eat pork, so I used some liquid smoke in my recipe to get some added flavor.
- 1/2 pound of large shrimp, deveined– reserve the shells and tails
- 1/2 lemon, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 scotch bonnets (or other hot peppers), finely minced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 4 Green plantains, peeled and cut into rounds on the diagonal
- Olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
- Dash or two of liquid smoke
- Sea salt to taste
For the shrimp, begin by covering the reserved shells with 2 – 3 cups of water in a covered pot or saucepan. Add the lemon and the bay leaf, and let cook, covered, for 30-45 minutes. Pour through a sieve and discard the shells, lemon, etc, and reserve the shrimp stock.
Add olive oil to a large skillet on medium heat. Add the pepper and 2 cloves worth of smashed and minced garlic, and allow to cook for about a minute. Add the shrimp and one cup of the shrimp stock. Cook until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.
For the mofongo, soak the plantains in a bowl of salted water for 15 minutes. Coat a large skillet with olive oil. Heat to medium heat and add about 4 cloves worth of garlic. Allow to cook for about a minute, and add the plantains. Add a dash or two of liquid smoke. Sauté until the plantains are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer the whole thing (oil, garlic and plantains) to a large bowl or mortar, and mash with a potato masher or a pestle. Salt to taste. Create a well. Ladle in the shrimp and some of the liquid it’s cooked in. Enjoy with a Medalla or a piña colada.