The Extraordinary Shrimp Bucket
One summer, many years ago, I drove from my then home in Scottsdale Arizona to meet some old friends in the coastal town of Guaymas, on the Gulf of Mexico. The drive was long and hot, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my buddies waiting for me in the bar. Things got even better when we arrived at what I recall was a branch of the Carlo’s n’ Charlie’s chain. My friends had been there several times and insisted on ordering. The iced container of beer was a great start, but what really caught my fancy were the Shrimp Buckets, actual tin ones, full of French fries, topped with fried shrimp, smothered in mojo de ajo, garlic sauce, and accompanied by several dipping sauces and salsas, and a bowl of lime wedges.
It was a great feast and one I have repeated numerous times over the years. Fortunately, it is easy to prepare at home! One of the dish’s best qualities is that it can be as difficult or as easy as you wish. The most difficult version, which involves shelling, breading, and frying the shrimp, making the French fries from scratch, and preparing an elaborate mojo de ajo and other sauces, is, as you would expect, the most delicious. However, the easiest version, which reduces the preparation to baking frozen shrimp and French fries, frying some garlic in olive oil and putting a bottle of catsup on the table, is not as far behind the ideal as you might expect, especially when served with plenty of ice cold beer! It does help if, instead of baking, you deep fry the frozen potatoes and use a good quality frozen shrimp product, such as the butterflied ones coated with Panko that are sold at Costco stores. This dish will also be improved if you make the Ultimate Mojo de Ajo, which can be prepared well in advance. You can find appropriate serving buckets at hobby stores (be sure and wash them well, or line them with parchment paper), but large soup or dessert bowls work just fine. Or you can use one big bucket or bowl and serve everything family style.