The green in this dish comes from the tomatillos and chiles, not from green garlic which are garlic plants harvested before the cloves form and mature. Garlicky it is and green as a shamrock with hints of pink from the shrimp peeking through the piquant emerald sauce.
I adapted this recipe from Martha Rose Shulman’s book Mexican Light. The original recipe hails from Veracruz, Mexico, which is located on the southwest coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
Gulf shrimp are plentiful and it’s only natural that many would be dressed up in the bright, chile-laden flavors of Mexican cooking. This dish can be searingly hot or mild depending on the type and amount of the small chiles.
I was inspired to make this after discovering a wonderful source for locally made stone ground corn tortillas and masa. Three Sisters Niztamal began selling their masa at the People’s Co-op Farmers Market in southeast Portland in 2012 and have enjoyed great success ever since.
Masa is Spanish for dough, and making it from dried corn kernels is a tedious process involving soaking and cooking the corn in a solution of slaked lime or wood ash. The process is called nixtamalization.
So excellent is their product that the demand for it stimulated phenomenal growth in just one year. I located my tortillas and fresh masa at the Portland Farmers Market on Park at Portland State University. Cooking classes using their product are available at Portland Homestead Supply Company.
“Our name, Three Sisters, originates from the symbiotic growing of maize, beans, and squash practiced by Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas – the bean vine grows around the corn stalk, fixing the nitrogen to the soil, while the squash provides a shady ground cover that locks in moisture and keeps weeds and insects at bay. These three sister crops, grown and eaten together, offer environmental sustainability and nutritional balance, the cornerstone of our company’s values and philosophy.” Three Sisters Nixtamal
Green Garlic Shrimp Enchiladas
- 8-10 fresh corn tortillas
- Vegetable oil as needed
- 10 cloves of garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 tomatillos
- 1 large poblano chile, roasted, peeled and seeded
- 1 jalapeño chile, roasted, peeled and seeded (If you want to turn up the heat, substitute up to 3 serrano chiles for the jalapeño)
- ½ cup fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 to 1½ pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
- Heat a film of oil in a frying pan large enough to hold one tortilla.
- Lightly fry the tortillas one at a time for about 30 seconds on each side.
- Add more oil as needed as you fry the remaining tortillas.
- Stack them on a warm plate and keep warm while you make the remainder of the dish.
- Pound the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle until a paste forms. Add a few drops of water if needed for a pasty consistency.
- Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover the tomatillos and bring to a boil.
- Add the tomatillos, lower the heat, and allow the tomatillos to simmer for about 5-8 minutes, until they have softened.
- Place the tomatillos, the chiles, along with the basil and mint in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy non-stick skillet over medium heat.
- Add the shrimp, stirring until they begin to turn pink.
- Stir in the garlic paste and mix thoroughly, allowing the garlic to cook for no more than a minute.
- Add the tomatillo mixture and stir until the shrimp are covered with the sauce and fully cooked but not tough.
- Place a warm tortilla on a serving platter, spoon some of the shrimp mixture in and roll up, leaving it seam side down.
- Repeat with remaining tortillas.
- Spoon some of the cheese sauce over and garnish with some fresh cilantro.
Mild Cheese Sauce
- ½ small onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup milk or more as needed for thinning
- 2 ounces of thin sliced white American Cheese (I used Boar’s Head from the deli)
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Sauté the onion in the butter in a small saucepan until soft.
- Add the milk and cheese; stir until cheese is melted.
- Mix in remaining ingredients and stir until homogenous.
- Add more milk if it is too thick.
- Keep warm or serve immediately.
Serve with Mexican Rice.