As if winning a cooking competition wasn’t difficult enough, in just a few short months, recent MasterChef winner Claudia Sandoval managed to put together her first cookbook. Released today, “Claudia’s Cocina, A Taste of Mexico” is a beautiful collection of recipes that pay homage to the Latina on Fire’s roots.
Sandoval, who is a single mother, and was raised by a single mother, draws a lot on her family’s rustic, ranch-life influences and experiences from MasterChef. The stories and recipes throughout the book are humble and heartfelt.
One whole chapter is dedicated to Mazatlán-style seafood. Almost on the same latitude as Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán sits on the coast of mainland Mexico and is the region in which Sandoval’s family hails from. In the book, Sandoval talks about the influential women of her family that came before her.
“One of the main reasons I cook the way I do is that several recipes I use have been handed down through several generations of powerful women,” Sandoval wrote in the introduction to the chapter. “Women like my great-grandmother Julia, una gran señora (a grand woman) who would cook from the wee hours of the morning to feed the men who worked the fishing boats ‘til well past sunset ...”
After reading this introduction and the note leading into the recipe for spicy shrimp ceviche (aguachile) - in which Sandoval mentions it’s what her dad requests for Father’s Day - I thought it would be the perfect recipe to try out on Mother’s Day this past weekend.
The recipe turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to the ribs we were also having that night. My one regret: not going spicy enough (the recipe recommends two fresh chili de árbol or one to three serrano chiles, of which I used two serranos. When Sandoval makes the recipe at home, she uses the much spicier habaneros).
While there are many more rich and complex recipes in the book (Sandoval recommended to me the braised pork cheek tostada stacks or the grilled red snapper), this recipe is one that cooks of any level can knock out of the park.
Spicy shrimp ceviche (aguachile)
- 2 pounds (910 g) medium or large shrimp, peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240 mL) fresh lime juice
- 2 fresh chiles de arbol or 1 to 3 fresh serrano chiles, stemmed
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
- 1 large cucumber, thinly sliced into half moons
- 1 large Roma tomato, sliced into half moons
- Up to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Butterfly the shrimp: On a cutting board, place each shrimp on its side and insert a knife about three-quarters of the way into the outside curve of the shrimp from the head to the tail, making sure not to cut all the way through. Remove the vein with the tip of your knife
Place the butterflied shrimp in a large nonmetallic bowl, toss with the salt and refrigerate while you make the sauce.
In a blender, combine the lime juice and whole chiles and blend until the chiles are completely broken down. Add the onion slices and half of the cucumber slices to the shrimp and toss, coating the onion and cucumber with salt.
Line a platter with the remaining cucumber slices and all of the tomato slices. Spread the shrimp mixture into a single layer on the platter using a nonmetallic spoon or spatula and slowly pour the chile-lime sauce over the shrimp (see notes). Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes, if using. I hope you have a cold drink nearby, because you’re going to need it.
Notes: In Mazatlán, aguachile is served up right after it’s made - raw. If you’d like your shrimp to cook in the lime juice a bit, cover it before garnishing and put it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, mixing it once or twice, before serving. You will know the shrimp is thoroughly cooked when it turns pinkish white and you no longer see any gray.