Mofongo is a mash of slow-fried plantains, garlic and olive oil. In this recipe, it becomes a cozy vessel for criollo-seasoned shrimp stew. I like to cook my shrimp sauce down with a light beer for a zingy twist of flavor, then add peas — like my mother does — to bring a nice burst of color and a touch of sweetness. The pork rinds in the mofongo are optional, but I encourage them as they provide an element of authenticity to this Caribbean favorite.
For the shrimp stew: Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and add to a bowl. Toss with the adobo, a pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oregano, smoked paprika, olives and brine, cilantro, onion, red bell pepper and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Pour in half of the beer, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom, and cook down for 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and the rest of the beer. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquids reduce by a third, about 5 minutes, then turn the heat to low and keep warm.
For the mofongo: Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add the corn oil. Heat until the oil reaches 325 degrees F or it bubbles when in contact with a wooden spoon.
Add the plantains to the oil, lower the heat to low and fry, flipping halfway through, until light golden and cooked through but not yet crispy, about 15 minutes. Drain the plantains on paper towels and season with salt.
Combine the olive oil and garlic in a mortar and pestle and process to form a paste. Season with about 1 teaspoon salt. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and set aside.
Add 5 to 6 chunks of the fried plantains, 1 tablespoon of the oil mixture and about 2 tablespoons of the crushed pork rinds, if using, to the same mortar and pestle. Mix until well mashed and combined. Scoop out the mofongo with a spoon and use your hands to form the mixture into a bowl, creating a cradle for the shrimp stew. Repeat 3 additional times.
For serving: Return the stew to medium-high heat and cook until it starts to simmer. Add the peas and cook for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and lemon juice, then continue to cook until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Plate the mofongo and spoon the shrimp stew into them.
This dish can also be served family style, with everyone getting one mofongo and helping themselves to the stew.
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