Thursday, June 2, 2011

RECIPE - Ragout of River Prawns with Okra (Guisadinho de Camarão Regional com Quibo)

This recipe which comes from the state of Pará, where the entire Amazonian river system empties its waters into the Atlantic Ocean, calls for the small fresh water prawns called camarão regional, or in English Amazonian river prawns. (Click here for more information about this prawn.) Since there is currently no export market for the camarão regional, it's extremely unlikely that you are likely to find some at your local supermarket or fishmongers. However, any small, peeled, uncooked shrimp will work just fine in this recipe.

Besides the prawns, the other main ingredient of this dish is okra (quiabo in Portuguese). Originally from Africa, this delicious vegetable was brought to Brazil during the days of the slave trade, and is today eaten everywhere in Brazil. Many people have an aversion to okra, based on the misconception that it is invariably slimy or full of mucous. Okra does have the tendancy to become slimy when overcooked, but when cooked al dente, just to the point of tenderness, it is not slimy at all. To avoid the whole problem, this recipe leaves the cooking of the okra to the last minute, for combination with the rest of the dish just before serving.

Note: the recipe calls for a small quantity of a fresh herb known locally in  Pará as chicória-do-Pará. Confusingly, the name in English for this herb is culantro (NOT cilantro). It is common in Caribbean, Mexican, South American and Southeast Asian recipes, and can sometimes be found in food markets catering to those communities. If unavailable, it can be left out without seriously altering the taste of the dish.
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RECIPE - Ragout of River Prawns with Okra (Guisadinho de Camarão Regional com Quibo)
Serves 4

For the shrimp ragout:
1 lb (450 gr) small, peeled shrimp, uncooked
2 limes
salt to taste
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

1 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh culantro, finely chopped (see note above)
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 Tbsp green onion, finely chopped
1 small serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded and finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced

For the okra:
12 medium-sized pods okra
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
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Prepare the shrimp: put the shrimp in a bowl, then squeeze one lime over. Stir briefly, then rinse the shrimp in a colandar with lots of fresh water. Return the shrimp to the bowl, and marinade them with the juice of the remaining lime, salt and one Tbsp of the olive oil. Let stand for fifteen minutes. In a large frying pan or casserole, heat half of the remaining olive oil, add the shrimp, the tomato, the basil, culantro, cilantro, green onion, chile and garlic and stir-fry for just a few minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through. Season with salt and reserve, keeping warm.

Prepare the okra: Cut off and discard the tops and tips of the okra pods. Cut the okra into rounds about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. In a small pan, heat the remaining olive oil, then briefly cook the onion and garlic. Add the okra and salt to taste, and stir-fry for a few minutes, until the okra is cooked but still al dente. Remove from the heat, and using a slotted spoon, remove the okra from the pan, letting each spoonful drain completely to eliminate any slime. Add the okra directly to the reserved shrimp, mix completely, then briefly heat the combined ragout. Serve immediately with white rice.

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