Sunday, October 31, 2010

RECIPE - Shrimp with Tomato Sauce (Camarão ao Molho de Tomate)

What's for dinner tonight? At my place, at least, it'll be shrimp with tomato sauce. I've got some guests coming over this evening for a Sunday supper and to watch the Brazilian presidential election results on TV. Being an election day, today is a "dry day" in Brazil, so I'll have to serve clandestine drinks to my friends. The common consensus is that current president Lula's anointed successor, a woman named Dilma Rousseff, will be elected in this second-round vote. She's shown to have an advantage in the neighborhood of 10-12% in most opinion polls. However, the polls also indicated she would win in the first round, which was a month ago, and that turned out not to be the case.

Even if Dilma's not a sure-bet to be elected, this simple and straightforward dish of shrimps cooked in a thick tomato sauce is statistically 100% likely to be served at tonight's dining table at my home. It's a favorite standby dish for an easy supper with guests. It doesn't take hours to prepare, it doesn't require exotic ingredients, yet it arrives at the table looking quite fancy and special.

This recipe comes from the small, historic northeastern city of João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraíba. The short coastline of Paraíba is a stretch of sandy beaches, often backed by fresh or saltwater lagoons. The cuisine of this state relies heavily on crustaceans from both the open sea and the lagoons - shrimps, lobsters and crabs.

If you're making this dish, look for medium to medium-large shrimp. At that size, they will need to be deveined, but that extra step is worth the time and effort, and makes a much more appealing final dish.
RECIPE - Shrimp with Tomato Sauce (Camarão ao Molho de Tomate)
Serves 4

For the tomato sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, crushed
4 Tbsp. butter
6 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3 bay leaves
3 cups canned tomato sauce
salt to taste
2.5 cups water
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the shrimp:
1.5 lbs (600 gr) medium shrimp, cleaned and peeled
4 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, grated
salte to taste
2 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp. finely chopped green onion
Make the tomato sauce: Combine the flour and 1.5 cups of the water (at room temperature). Stir or shake to mix until you have a consistent paste, without lumps. Reserve.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter together until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot and bubbling. Add the diced onion and the garlic and sauté until the onions and garlic are softened and transparent, but not browned. Add in the chopped tomato, the sliced onion and the bay leaves, stirring to mix thoroughly. Then add the tomato sauce, 1 cup of the water, stir, then correct the seasoning with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then slowly add the flour and water paste, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Continue to cook and stir until the sauce thickens and loses its taste of flour. Reserve, keeping warm.

Make the shrimp: In a large pan, melt the butter, then add the shrimp, the onion, the cilantro and the green onion. Cook over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Then add the reserved tomato sauce, reduce heat, and cook with the pan partially covered for 5 more minutes.

Pour into a serving platter and serve immediately.

Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brazileira by Abril Editora