Calamansi and Annato
Butter Meets Peanut Oil
Besides the Caribbean region and parts of Latin America, the Philippines is one place where Achiote (or Annato) seeds are used iin cooking. It occurs in dishes like Kare-Kare the Filipino oxtail stew, and is also used effectively to make an aromatic oil for flavoring Shrimp.
The use of the Filipino citrus fruit, calamansi, gives a special punch to the dish, and contrasts with the oily butter and oils to lighten the flavor. Limes would be a good alternative, if the Philippine original is not available.
There’s an ancient Fusion element here in the use of Butter. In the Philippines this dish would normally be cooked with Peanut Oil, but you can use any Vegetable Oil you prefer.
Shrimp in Achiote Oil
For the Achiote Ol:
¼ cup Peanut Oil or other Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons Achiote (Annato) Seeds
For the Shrimp:
1½ pounds large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons unsalted Butter
1 – 2 hot Red Chilies, with seeds, thinly sliced
4 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Cilantro or Lime juice
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
Freshly ground Black Peppe
2 Scallions, thinly sliced
Toasted French bread
First make the Achiote Oil. Cook the Oil and Achiote Seeds in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the Oil turns dark red. It will take about 5 mionutes. Strain it into a jar and let it cool. The Oil can be made as much as a wek ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator.
To make the dish itself, the Shrimp have to be peeled and deveined and set aside in a small dish.
The Scallions should be sliced thinly and put in a small dish or saucer.
Same for the Red Chilies, also in a small dish to one side.
The Garlic will be chopped and combined with the other aromatics — Red Chilies, CCitrus Juice and Soy Sauce in a small dish near the cooking area.
Toast the French bread lightly and set it aside in a serving dish.
To complete the dish, heat the Achiote Oil and Butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Then add the Garlic-Soy Sauce mixture and cook, stirring until it becomes fragrant. It will take about 30 seconds.
Next add the Shrimp, season with Salt and Pepper and cook them, stirring often, until the Shrimp are opaque throughout. It will take about 4 minutes. To serve, put the Shrimp in a serving dish and top with the Scallions. Serve the toasted French Bread on the side.
The Achiote Oil imparts a delicate amber color to the Shrimp and adds its distinctive aroma, while the Citrus juices contribute a light, tart touch.