"I created this dish because it's very simple to make," says the author of Floyd Cardoz: Flavorwalla. "If you have the ingredients, you can get it done in under 30 minutes." His recipe is Shrimp Curry with Cauliflower.
Sally Swift: We love to dig into recipes that are simple, easy and great for the weeknight. Leafing through your new book, Flavorwalla, I ran into a beautiful, beautiful shrimp curry with cauliflower that is laced with turmeric, a little tamarind paste and coconut milk. It is the most gorgeous yellow I've ever seen. Where did this recipe come from?
Floyd Cardoz: Everything I cook, whether it's in my restaurant or in my home, has to have some kind of inspiration for me to cook it. This recipe, unfortunately, I just stole from my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother. In India, this would be made when we would go to visit our family. They'd make this with shrimp or a white fish, and we'd have it with rice.
But when my kids were growing up, it was very important for me to get them to enjoy the flavors I loved, the flavors that my wife loved, because that's something that's really important to me. I felt that if they had a connection to something that was my favorite growing up, they would enjoy it even more. I created this dish because it's very simple to make. If you have the ingredients, you can get it done in under 30 minutes.
SS: Absolutely. All the ingredients are at a local grocery store. I want you to walk me through this recipe. Let's start with the shrimp, because right from the bat, you ask for something that is a little bit uncommon for people. You ask for the shrimp to have their shells and heads on, if we can find them.
FC: My mom used to make a quick shrimp stock. She'd cook this for us with the heads on. The heads on the shrimp have this amazing flavor that normally gets wasted. The reason I use the shells is that when you take the shells and you put them in water, it just makes your stock so much more flavorful. You bring it up, and you let it cook for about 30 minutes. You strain it, pressing out all the nice orange matter that comes out, the fat and all the flavor.
If you don't have the time to do that and you buy them with the shells on, I like to keep the shells. I make the stock, and I save it in little quart containers in the freezer. The next time I'm doing this, I have the stock to start.
SS: Just to be clear, you are not cooking the shrimp in the shell. You're removing the shells from the shrimp, and you're making broth out of the shrimp shells.
The next thing you do in this recipe that I found really interesting is you call for a whole serrano chili. But you don't chop it up, you cut it in half.
FC: For this recipe, just because it was for my kids who didn't like spicy foods -- this is a great dish to introduce people to spices -- I like to put the chili pepper in whole. I split it in half. Some of the heat will go into the sauce, but most of the heat still remains in the chili pepper. So someone who wants to eat it a little bit spicier, like I did with my kids -- I would take the chili pepper on my plate and eat it along with my food so I got the excess heat that I wanted.
SS: Talk me through the rest of the recipe.
FC: It's sliced onions, minced garlic, turmeric.
SS: A lot of turmeric, a whole tablespoon.
FC: Turmeric, besides giving it that wonderful yellow color that people associate with curries, also has great nutritive benefits and health benefits. When I have a sore throat, I'll gargle with a little bit of turmeric. I put turmeric in eggs; I put turmeric in sauces. It's an antioxidant, antibacterial and it has this really nice, aromatic, earthy flavor that makes the dish really nice.
I have cumin seeds, black peppercorns, serrano chili, tamarind paste. I do vinegar. I do cauliflower florets. I love cauliflower. You don't often see cauliflower cooked together with seafood dishes, but it's fairly common on the East coast of India, on the West coast of India. I also love putting cauliflower in this dish because my kids, I needed to get them to eat their vegetables somehow. When you get this nice shrimp sweetness from the curry into the cauliflower, it just makes it really, really nice. I use coconut milk.
Once I make my stock, I heat up canola oil. You can sweat out the onions and garlic. Then you add your spice. It's very important, whenever you're cooking spice, to add it into oil. You're trying to extract the aromatic oils from the spice into your sauce.
You add the chili, the vinegar, the tamarind paste and the coconut milk. You bring it up really, really slowly. You put the cauliflower in first. You let that come up again and cook for a few minutes. Then you add the shrimp with the cauliflower in the coconut milk. You don't want it to boil, but you want it to simmer.
You want to cook the shrimp until it's just barely cooked. You don't want to overcook them because then they get tough. They're still soft; they're still delicious; they still have that sweetness in there. Then it works with the tamarind, the slight bitterness of the cauliflower, which is not really bitter but it adds a counter. The texture of the cauliflower just makes the entire dish so much more exciting because you have these flavors, you have these textures and it's all balanced out.
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