Photo by Cindy Kennedy

Grilled Shrimp Tex-Mex Tapas with Guajillo Sauce

Cuisine: Tex Mex
Servings: 10 servings

No Tex-Mex Tapas platter would be complete without grilled shrimp. In a medium size, they’re another two-bite appetizer that pairs beautifully with sauces and favorite after-work beverages. This recipe calls for my “Fab Five” of Tex-Mex seasonings for a marinade. My dipping sauce utilizes guajillo peppers for their tangy taste and a little heat that builds with each bite. What a pairing! Baked flour tortilla chips add garnish and a finish to the palate.

Part of the fun is also in serving this dish. The sauce goes into 1.5 ounce shot glasses and then they’re perched inside small condiment bowls. Deliver them to your guests on clear dessert plates for a finishing touch.

First, let’s get to the Fab Five seasoning mix. It includes the basics: chili powder (off the shelf), oregano, cumin, salt and black pepper. It’s a common misconception that cumin is widely popular in authentic Mexican cooking. This classic Middle Eastern spice is found in regional fare, but is much more common in blended cuisines. My personal mix is simple and can be easily doubled or tripled for storing. Use it on poultry, scallops, and even veggies.


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For Quick Baked Flour Tortilla Chips and the Sauce
  1. Flour tortillas (cut into halves and then thirds). Each yields 6 chips.
  2. Place on a lined cookie sheet and coat both sides with cooking spray. Bake at 400ºF for about 5 minutes. If not quite done, turn and bake another 2-3 minutes.
  3. The guajillo sauce will take several hours to simmer and soak. The beautiful thick skins of these popular peppers will turn a rich dark red, which translates into a classic sauce. I like to keep the peppers intact throughout the blending process before straining out the seeds and skin pulp. It seems to retain better flavor and, of course, a little more heat in the final tasting.
  4. Place in water and let them boil for about 10 minutes. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let them soak for 2-3 hours.
  5. Saute the onion, along with a sprinkle of black pepper, in a skillet until translucent, but not too browned.
  6. Drain peppers and reserve some liquid in a bowl. Hold peppers upright to retain liquid inside and remove stems. Place in food processor. Add onions and puree briefly. Add about ½ cup reserved liquid and continue to puree.
  7. Use a strainer and a wooden spoon to press liquids through, leaving skin pulp and seeds behind. That’s all there is to it. You can salt to taste if desired.
Seasoning the Shrimp
  1. Place shrimp in a large plastic baggie. Coat with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle in the Tex-Mex seasoning listed above. Add a few sprigs of chopped cilantro leaves. Let them marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  1. Fire up the grill, preferably charcoal for the best flavors. Place shrimp directly on a small grate or use a long-handled basket to keep them intact. Let cook over hottest coals for about 90 seconds on each side or until done.
  2. When the shrimp have cooled, they’re ready to assemble and enjoy!
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