I believe that most times we have a favorite ingredient, such as shrimp, and most times end up preparing it in the same manner. Besides grilled, many of my favorite shrimp dishes call for breading or batter and frying. But what I really love, is when you can take a simple soup recipe and transform it into something special. Oftentimes we start meals with appetizers that are heavy and fill you up even before you get a chance to enjoy the main dish. This recipe is a great starter or appetizer for those special meals that we like to prepare throughout the year. The soup base can be prepared a couple of days ahead and the shrimp added on the day you are going to serve it. This is a well-rounded recipe that makes good use of a variety of pantry items, such as fresh produce, frozen produce, dried peppers and a quick-cooking seafood. For a chicken variation, slice uncooked chicken breast into small bites, season and marinate as directed. Sear in olive oil for a few minutes before adding it to the soup to finish cooking.
Season the cleaned shrimp with salt, pepper, chile ancho, chile de arbol (or cayenne), 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.
In a small sauce pan, add the shrimp shells, 2½ cups water, all the juice of remaining lemon and the lemon halves. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and heat to medium. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. In a separate sauce pan, add the chile ancho to some boiling water. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and heat to medium. Add the tomatoes, serranos, cloves of garlic and white onion. Cook for 20 minutes, turning as needed. You want some charring and blistering on the tomatoes and peppers to achieve a roasted flavor. Remove skins from garlic and transfer all roasted ingredients to the blender. Drain the chile ancho and add to blender, along with 1 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste, blend on high until smooth. Set aside.
In a large pot, preheat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the sauce from the blender and cook for a few minutes. Strain the broth prepared from shrimp shells and add to the pot with simmering sauce. Also add the chicken broth, bouillon, bay leaves and 1/3 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Add the corn, zucchini, green beans, oregano and cilantro. When it comes to a simmer add the shrimp and continue cooking for 5 to 6 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Garnish with green onions and lemon.
Anytime you are preparing soups or stews with shrimp, you will always add it towards the end. The shrimp cooks up quickly and can usually come right off the heat soon after adding.
During the winter months I rely on a few frozen vegetables, such as corn, peas, carrots and green beans. They are always a good addition to guisados (stews), arroz (rice) and caldos (soups).
The French-cut green beans were a last-minute addition and really added some great flavor and texture to the recipe.