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Baja BBQ Shrimp Bowl With Corn Rice

Recipe excerpted from 'Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Meals' by Carolynn Carreño

In the name of “write what you know,” one of the first stories I did for Saveur was about fish tacos. During summer vacations when I was in high school, my friends and I used to drive from San Diego, where I grew up, south into Mexico, where we would stay at a friend’s parents’ house in one of the beach towns near Ensenada. For days on end, we would lather our bodies in coconut oil and fry under the hot summer sun, indulge in the underage consumption of mini Corona beers, and eat tempura-battered fish and shrimp tacos sold from roadside stands. In researching the story, I discovered that Baja-style fish tacos are the invention of Japanese fishermen living in Ensenada, which allows me to justify putting soy sauce in these shrimp and still use the word “Baja” to describe them.

Don’t tell any of my food snob friends, but I keep a pound of frozen shrimp in the freezer at all times. Since I am never without a can of chipotle chiles (which are available in most supermarkets), this bowl is always within reach. It’s also gluten-free. ¡Que suerte! 

Recipe excerpted from Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Meals by Carolynn Carreño. Click here to purchase your own copy.

A note about the Corn Rice: I learned to make stock from corn cobs when I did an internship at Chez Panisse, the birthplace of the American farm-to-table movement, in Berkeley. Every morning, the chefs and interns would sit around a table while the chef planned the day’s menu and we did any prep that could be done sitting down, which, because it was late summer, meant shucking corn. One day, the chefs decided to turn the corn into soup, and my job would be to make the corn stock. Thankfully one of the chefs walked me through the process, which went like this: Put the shucked corn cobs in a big stockpot, add enough water to cover the cobs, and simmer for about an hour. The resulting soup tasted like corn to the tenth degree, and the same, I’ve discovered, goes for rice and quinoa cooked in corn stock. Since then, I’ve rarely let a raw corn cob go into the trash without first boiling out all it has to give.

Warning: I tried making this with ordinary supermarket corn, as opposed to farmers’ market or Chino Ranch corn, and the grains had almost no corn flavor. If you don’t want to go to a farmers’ market, or corn isn’t in season, don’t waste your time boiling flavorless cobs. Just make another grain instead. The addition of grated cotija cheese and Chipotle Cashew Crema turns corn rice into a rich and delicious side dish. 

A note about the Chiptole Cashew Crema: Chipotle chiles are smoked jalapeño peppers. Chipotle chiles en adobo, which is what is called for here, come in a can; the “en adobo” refers to the marinade the peppers are packed in. Open up the can (which you can find these days at any ol’ grocery store) and dump the entire contents into a blender or mini food processor. Swish out the can with a tablespoon or two of water and throw that water in the blender, too. Give it a whirl, and you now have the most delicious, spicy, smoky paste you’ve ever dreamed of. Put your precious paste into an old jam jar or other container and keep it in the fridge; it’ll last for months. Spoon it into barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, marinades, chicken soup, black beans, chili, salsa, or sour cream. You’ll never look at Sriracha the same way again.



For The Shrimp

  • canola oil (or another neutral-flavored oil)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
  • 1 Pound large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 1 Teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon pureed chipotle chile en adobo
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste (from a tube), or 2 tablespoons regular tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 lime, halved

For The Corn Rice or Quinoa

  • 3 ears corn, shucked, kernels cut from the cobs, and cobs reserved
  • 1 Cup long-grain brown rice or quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 Teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 3 or 4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (optional)

For the Chipotle Cashew Crema

  • 1 Cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour and as long as overnight
  • 1 Teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon agave syrup, or 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 chipotle chiles en adobo


For The Shrimp

To prepare the shrimp, add enough oil to a large skillet to coat it generously and add the garlic. Heat the garlic and oil together over medium-high heat until the oil is hot and slides like water in the pan but is not smoking. Add the shrimp, season with the salt, and cook until they are pink and opaque on both sides about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and move the shrimp to one side of the pan. Add the chipotle puree, tomato paste, soy sauce, and brown sugar and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors. Turn off the heat, squeeze the lime over the shrimp, and toss again.

To assemble the bowls, spoon the grains into four bowls and spoon the beans on top. Pile on the shrimp and cabbage. Drizzle crema over everything and serve each bowl with a lime half.

For The Corn Rice or Quinoa

Put the corn cobs in a tall stockpot with an insert, if you have one, or else in any large pot and add 7 cups water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook the cobs for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the liquid has reduced by half and the stock is corn colored and flavorful. Lift out the insert or strain the stock into a large glass measuring cup or a large bowl and discard the solids.

Measure out 3 1/2 cups of the corn stock. (Save any leftover for the next time you cook grains; if you don’t have enough, supplement water.) Pour the stock into a large saucepan. Add the rice or quinoa and 1 teaspoon of the salt and bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat so the liquid is barely simmering, put the lid on the pan, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes for quinoa, 20 to 30 minutes for rice. Turn off the heat and let the grains rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff gently with a fork.

While the grains are cooking, pour enough oil to coat a large skillet and heat the oil over high heat until it is searing hot (it will slide like water in the pan) but not smoking, 2 to 3 minutes; the corn should sizzle when it touches the pan. Add the corn kernels, sprinkle with the sugar (if you are using it) and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring and scraping up the corn that wants to stick to the pan with a metal spatula until the corn is caramelized and begins to snap, crackle, and pop, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the rice or quinoa and fold the grains and corn together for about 1 minute to warm the grains. Fold in the scallions and serve.

For the Chipotle Cashew Crema

Drain the cashews, reserving 1 cup of the soaking liquid.

Put all the ingredients, including the reserved soaking liquid, in a blender and puree. The end.