Wednesday, May 18, 2011

RECIPE - Cachaça Shrimp (Camarões com Cachaça)

This straightforward and delightful dish really can't claim to be Brazilian at all, even though it includes typical Brazilian ingredients like shrimp, cachaça and lime juice. It's a Flavors of Brazil adaptation of a recipe for tequila shrimp that we found on the internet (here) . That recipe, of course, was Mexican in inspiration even though it probably wasn't authentically Mexican. The recipe below can equally be called Brazilian-inspired, even if it's pedigree doesn't go back to colonial times here in Brazil.

We decided to substitute the tequila in the original recipe for cachaça for two reasons. The first was to see if it was possible to successfully "brazilianize" the original recipe by using Brazil's most iconic spirit instead of Mexico's. The second reason was purely monetary - tequila is extraordinarily expensive here in Brazil, and cachaça is relatively cheap. Tequila prices have climbed worldwide in the past few years, and there really is no such thing as cheap tequila anymore - anywhere. Additionally, here in Brazil there is a high duty charged on imported spirits. The result is that the cheapest tequila we could find when doing some casual research in local supermarkets and liquor stores was at least ten times the price of a decent cachaça.

Since we haven't tasted the original tequila-based recipe, we can't compare the two versions to say which is better. We can say, though, that the version with  cachaça was a huge success with everyone who tried it. If you have some cachaça at home, use it - you'll be happy with the results. If you have tequila only, go back to the roots of the recipe and use it instead of cachaça. It won't be Brazilian-inspired any longer, but a Mexican-inspired dish of shrimp isn't necessarily a bad thing.
RECIPE - Cachaça Shrimp (Camarões com Cachaça)
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
salt to taste
1 1/2 lb (750 gr) uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and halved lengthwise
1/2 cup cachaça
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
chunks of fresh avocado
a few cilantro leaves
extra limes for serving
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large heavy-duty frying pan. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and garlic. Season with salt to taste, then cook for 5-8 minutes, or until the onion is translucent but not browned.

Add the shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes, or until they turn pink. Remove the pan from the heat, add the tequila and stir with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits from the surface of the pan. Return to the heat. Simmer until the alcohol has burned off and the shrimp are completely cooked, about 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat, add the lime juice, and mix thoroughly to incorporate.

Serve immediately on a bed of lettuce, topped with two or three chunks of fresh avocado and sprinkled with a few cilantro leaves. Garnish with a wedge of lime. Can be served as a first course or as a light main course at lunch. Offer hot chili pepper sauce for those who wish a spicy dish.

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