Wednesday, February 10, 2010

RECIPE - Dragão do Mar Shrimp

In Ceará, the Brazilian state where I live, the most important historical hero is a person who goes by the unusual name of “Dragon of the Sea” (in Portuguese Dragão do Mar). Born into a poor family in 1839 as Francisco José de Nascimento, at an early age he joined the family trade and became a fisherman and seaman. Being black in a part of Brazil which never had a large slave population, he suffered personally from racism and joined the abolitionist movement at its earliest stages. He was instrumental in organizing the seamen of Ceará and 1881 he and the others seamen in his group began to refuse to handle slave ships when they stopped in Ceará’s ports – the first successful boycott of its type in Brazil. In 1884 Ceará became the first state in Brazil to abolish slavery, in large part due to the interest generated by his campaign. He became a national figure and came to be known as “Dragão do Mar.”

Today, Fortaleza’s cultural complex, O Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar, bears his name. There are statues of him in various cities in Ceará, and his name appears on everything from restaurant names to cocktails, and from streets to candies. His name also graces celebrated dishes of traditional Cearense food, like this one – Dragão do Mar Shrimp (Camarão Dragão do Mar).
RECIPE - Dragão do Mar Shrimp
Serves 2

2 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves
1 tsp. black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
1.5 pounds medium shrimp, with heads, unpeeled
1/4 cup cachaça (tequila may be substituted)
2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cup shrimp broth (see below)
1/2 cup white sauce (see below)
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. finely chopped mushrooms
2 cups cooked white rice
3 Tbsp. finely chopped cashew nuts, roasted but unsalted
salt and pepper to taste
1. Make shrimp broth. Fill medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water. Remove heads from shrimps, peel them, and place shrimp heads and peels in pan. Devein the shrimps and reserve. Add the cloves peppercorns and bay leaves to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool. Strain through fine sieve, reserve.
2. Make the white sauce.Put the whole milk in a medium saucepan. Off heat and while still cold, stir in the cornstarch to dissolve. Place over medium heat, add the oil and cream, and cook, stirring until smooth and thickened.
3. Prepare the shrimps. Heat the butter in a large heavy frying pan. Add the garlic, onion and reserved shrimp and stir-fry lightly for one minute. Add the cachaça to tequila and flame. Let flames extinguish. Add the shrimp broth, the white sauce, the cream, and the tomato paste. Stir well to mix, then add the mushrooms. Add salt and pepper, taste for seasoning. Let cook over medium heat for five minutes. Remove the shrimps from the sauce, place on a serving platter and cover with 1/2 of the sauce from the frying pan. Cover and keep warm. Add the cooked rice to the remaining 1/2 of the sauce in the frying pan and heat, stirring constantly, for two minutes. Put the rice in a serving bowl, and sprinkle the top with the cashew nuts. Serve immediately with the shrimp.

(Recipe adapted and translated from Cozinha Regional Brasileira by Abril Editora)

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