How long to "slow-cook" shrimp?
I've got a craving to try making my favorite vindaloo recipe with shrimp instead of chicken or pork. In the ordinary recipe, I prep the onions, garlic, and spices in the pan, toss the meat in the mixture, bring it to a boil for a few minutes, and then lower it to a simmer for an hour.
How long should I cook the shrimp, though? Surely an hour is too much, even at a low simmer. Is there some standard of conversion in cooking times for such things?
In Indian recipes, and especially in vindaloo, it's not uncommon to cook the shrimp 15 minutes or more, even up to half an hour. The texture is a good bit rubberier than how shrimp are served in the West, and the vinegar pickles them slightly which adds to their toughness, but that's the way it's traditionally prepared. I guess it depends on how you like your shrimp.
This is how a Goan lady told me how to make shrimp vindaloo (I figured you have a favorite recipe already, so this is just technique, not amounts. I can find her ingredient list for you if you'd like.). I usually don't cook the shrimp as much as she would, and it still works.:
Make two pastes:
One is your dry spices, including chili powders, ground with the vinegar in a blender, adding just enough water to make it smooth, but still thick.
The other is the garlic and ginger, again with just enough water to make a smooth, thick paste.
Saute' onions with some more cinnamon, clove and peppercorns and cook about 15 minutes until onions are soft and light to medium brown.
Then add your two pastes and stir to combine. When they just start smelling fully cooked, add shrimp, salt and a pinch of sugar for caramelization, stirring all the time until the shrimp are cooked through. Because you're stirring all the time, it will take longer than if you were searing or poaching the shrimp.
An added note: A lot of Indian recipes recommend adding potatoes to vindaloo. That's because 'aloo' means potato in Hindi, so many Indian people think there must be potatoes in there. Really, vindaloo is a dish created by the colonial Portuguese and the name comes from the words vinho (wine) + alho (garlic). Real vindaloo has no potatoes.
Use this story as a baseline: once when vacationing in Florida we saw an ad in the paper for a shrimp dinner being held by a local church so we got out our map and found the church and had wonderful shrimp. That is the night I learned how to cook shrimp and ever since then I do it thus: bring the water to a boil, dump in the shrimp, let it come to a boil again, then immediately remove the pan from the burner and let it sit, covered, until the shrimp is lukewarm. The longer you cook shrimp, the more rubbery it gets. You can cook a sauce (Vindaloo, Creole, whatever) as long as you like but add the shrimp at the very end of the proceedings.