Cookbook Tester: Antojitos by La Palapa's Barbara Sibley and Margarite Malfy

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Sauteed shrimp in a fiery salsa
Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy are the co-owners-and-chefs of the two La Palapa restaurants in the East and West Villages. Antojitos, published this fall, is the first cookbook from the duo.

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The book provides 75 recipes for, yes, antojitos, the snack-like Mexican small dishes that are often masa-based, and are commonly sold from trucks and stands--items like sopes, quesadilas, tlacoyos, tortas, and tacos. (The word "antojo" means craving.)

The book is very much in the style of the La Palapa restaurants--citified, more in the vein of a refined Mexico City restaurant (where Sibley grew up) than a taco truck. There are several cocktail recipes, and the antojitos run from duck breast tostadas with chipotle-fig sauce to ancho chile-braised lamb tacos. The recipes are not difficult, but are somewhat labor-intensive, better suited for throwing a taco party for friends than a weeknight dinner. Ingredients should not be a problem: One lucky thing about living in New York is that you can run out to the local bodega and find all of the dried chiles you need.

We tried out one of the simpler recipes last night--sauteed shrimp in a fiery salsa, or casuelita de camarones a la diabla--and found that it has a wonderfully complex flavor despite calling for few ingredients. We used seasonal, shell-on Maine shrimp ($4.99 per pound at Whole Foods), although the recipe specifies jumbo shrimp. Whatever you use, buy wild shrimp if you can, as farmed shrimp negatively impact their ecosystems.

Sauteed Shrimp in a Fiery Salsa
Casuelita de Camarones a la Diabla
Yield: Serves 6 as an appetizer

From Antojitos by Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 pasilla chiles, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
3 ancho chiles, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
18 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tail shell intact
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender but not browned.

Add the chiles, and raise the heat to high. When the pan is hot, add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring and shaking the pan to ensure even cooking, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are pink but still translucent. Remove from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate or shallow bowl, leaving as much pan sauce as possible in the skillet.

Return the skillet to medium heat. Stir in the wine, and simmer for about 30 seconds, then return shrimp to the skillet. Raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. As soon as the liquid boils, remove the skillet from the heat.

Divide the shrimp and pan juices evenly among 6 dishes. Serve piping hot.


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