Shrimp and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Tart

This recipe is based on the famous Mexican sauce pipian verde, made from toasted pumpkin seeds, chilies, and sour cream. I learned about it from my friend chef Roberto Santibañez. Pipianes (the plural) are a fascinating category of Mexican sauces, very frequently used in Mexico, but not as well known as mole sauces in the United States. This one uses fairly hot Serrano chilies to flavor it. If you seed them as in the recipe below, you’ll get flavor and very mild heat. If you want the filling more spicy, leave half the chilies whole after removing the stems.

Makes one 10 or 11-inch tart, about 8 servings


Cornmeal Pastry Dough

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

3/4 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces

1 large egg

Filling

3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and each cut into 4 or 5 pieces, shells reserved

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup hulled, raw pumpkin seeds

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup cilantro leaves, rinsed and dried

2 to 4 fresh Serrano chilies, stemmed, halved, and seeded

1/3 cup coarsely chopped white onion

1/2 cup sour cream

3 large eggs

One 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom

  1. For the dough, place dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse to mix in finely. Add egg and pulse repeatedly until dough forms a ball, about ten 1-second pulses. Form the dough into a disk and flour the dough and the work surface.
  2. Roll the dough out to fit the pan. Refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.
  3. Set the shrimp aside in the refrigerator. Combine the shrimp shells, water, and salt in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup. Strain away and discard shells. Reserve liquid.
  4. Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 375˚F.
  5. Lightly toast pumpkin seeds in a sauté pan until they are just slightly golden. Do not let them turn brown. Pour the pumpkin seeds into the blender jar and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the same pan and when it is melted and foamy, add the shrimp. Toss or stir once, then sprinkle the cumin all over the shrimp.  Sauté the shrimp until the firm up and turn pink, no more than 1 minute. Scrape the shrimp onto a plate or bowl.
  6. Add the reduced shrimp liquid, oregano, cloves, cilantro, chilies, and onion to the pumpkin seeds in the blender jar. Purée until smooth.
  7. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and stir in the pumpkin seed mixture. Cook, stirring, until heated through, then whisk in the sour cream. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the shrimp. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then stir the shrimp mixture into the beaten eggs. Pour the filling into the tart shell.
  8. Bake the tart until the dough is baked through and the filling is set, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serving: If you don’t serve the tart immediately after it comes out of the oven, serve it within an hour or two of baking. It’s perfect cut into small wedges with drinks before dinner. Or add a salad and a fruit dessert for a light meal.

Storage: Keep at room temperature for no more than one or two hours. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and refrigerate.