Thursday, June 21, 2012

RECIPE - Shrimp and Rice, Espirito Santo Style (Arroz com Camarão Capixaba)

This wonderfully flavorful dish of rice and shrimp - halfway between risotto and paella - comes from the coastal state of Espírito Santo and is a perfect examply of how Brazilian cooks make use of clay cooking pots, something we've been featuring recently on this blog.

Espírito Santo lies along Brazil's southeastern coastline, bordered on the south by Rio de Janeiro state and on the north by Bahia. The coast has miles and miles of wonderful beaches, backed by the same spectacularly beautiful granite domes and mountains that famously frame Rio de Janeiro's landscape. Because of the long coastline, Espírito Santo's gastronomy is dominated by fish and seafood and the state is famous for its unique way of making fish and seafood moquecas - highly seasoned stews. Espírito Santo and Bahia are both famous for moquecas, but each has its own tradition. Bahian moquecas use coconut milk seasoned with dendê oil to provide the base for the stew; in Espírito Santo the broth is based on coconut milk, tomatoes and onions.

Espírito Santo's coastal cuisine isn't all about moquecas though - equally loved are rich and hearty main course dishes combining rice and any number of varieties of seafood. In Portuguese these dishes are rather prosaically called simply "rice and...". For example, rice and shrimp or rice and mixed seafood. In English they'd more likely be called risotto or paella, though technically they are neither. The rice used in regular long grain, so they really aren't risottos, which require Italian short grain rice. And they aren't really paellas either as they lack the essential saffron color and flavor and never mix seafood with chicken or sausages.

What does make these rice dishes special is that they are always cooked in clay pots. In Espírito Santo there is even a particular locally-based type of clay cookware known as Goiaberas, manufactured artisanally in Vítoria, the capital of the state. (Click here to read more about this type of cookware). The pots from Goiaberas are of a perfect shape and form to make this recipe, though it can easily be made in any type of pot or pan that you normally use for stovetop cooking. The resulting dish might not have the charm and Brazilian-ness that cooking in Goiaberas wear does, but those two whom you serve it will not complain, guaranteed. It's a wonderful dish for a casual supper with guests - informal, beautiful and tasty.
RECIPE - Shrimp and Rice, Espirito Santo Style (Arroz com Camarão  Capixaba)
Serves 4

4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp annatto, ground or paste (can substitute sweet paprika)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
9 medium tomatoes, cut into small cubes
2 medium onions, chopped, not too finely
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
salt to taste
2 lbs (1 kg) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/3 cup green or black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
6 cups cooked long grain white rice
2 stalks hearts of palm, halved horizontally (optional)
1/2 small tomato, cut into four wedges
grated parmesan to taste
In a large, low clay pot (or other pot or pan, like a large skillet or saucepan) heat the oil, then add the annatto or paprike and crushed garlic. Cook for a minute or two then add the chopped tomatoes, the onions, the cilantro and salt to taste. Cook for a few minutes, or until the tomato begins to break up. Add the shrimps, the coconut milk, the peas and corn and half of the olives and mix thorough. Lower the heat, cover the pot or pan and cook for ten minutes.

Uncover the pot or pan, stir in the cooked rice and continue cooking, stirring regularly, until the rice is heated through and has absorbed the liquid.

Serve at table in the cooking dish or other decorative serving dish. Garnish the surface with the tomato wedges, the palm hearts and the other half of the olives. Serve with grated parmesan on the side.


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