Sunday, May 9, 2010

Recipe: Shrimp Mozambique (Camarao Mocambique)

So...just how does a recipe from Mozambique end up in the Portuguese section of Chop Onions, Boil Water? You probably don't care, but I'm going to tell you anyway because if I didn't, all the space below the period at the end of this sentence would be white and I just can't have that.
This recipe begins way back in 1498 when the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama visited Mozambique. Apparently he liked what he saw, communicated it, and subsequent "explorers" visited the country and established settlements for trading and waging war against, and enslaving the uppity locals in a brutal feudalism that eventually evolved into a less-brutal-but-no-more-attractive colonial government. This of course led to conflicts for independence and fast forward to 1975 when the good people of Mozambique finally won their self-governance. So there's your Portugal-Mozambique connection.

Now lets make the Portugal-Mozambique-Recipe connection: Way back yonder when the Europeans were running around "discovering" people and cultures that already knew they were there, they started bringing back things they begged, bought or stole from the inhabitants of "THE NEW WORLD". Useful things like corn, potatoes, gold, captives, etc., and for the purposes of this story: chilies. Some of those chili seeds that were brought to Europe from the New World by European explorers, then made their way to Africa with Portuguese traders. There the peppers were spread by man and nature and flourished all over the continent and the local cuisine.

One small dried variety of these pepper pods called "Piri-Piri" by the local folks in Mozambique (sounds like "peedy-peedy" in Portuguese but means "pepper-pepper" in the African Swahili language), were used in making hot sauces and dishes, one of which would evolve into the recipe below. Portuguese, inhabitants, travelers, military men and mercenaries fell in love with the dish and brought it back with them to the homeland. Other Portuguese traveling abroad later would bring this dish to American shores, specifically the shores of Southeastern New England where the recipe is hugely popular. That's my story and I'm sticking to it until I learn otherwise.

See? Portugal-Mozambique-Recipe-America-Internet-The World.

This dish is great for group dining. It is rich, spicy and tangy. Be sure to have plenty of rice or a good crusty bread around because the resulting sauce is too good to pass up!

Incidentally, this is also prepared as a chicken dish using grilled tenders or breast meat sliced similarly.

Shrimp Mozambique

15 to 20 saffron threads
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of Portuguese olive oil
2 lbs. shrimp (uncooked, shell on)
10 cloves of garlic (coarsely chopped)
1/2 bottle dry white wine (Portuguese vinho verde is EXCELLENT for this dish)
1 tsp. colorau (colorau is Portuguese paprika. You can substitute sweet Spanish paprika or regular paprika in that order)
2 Tbs hot crushed pepper (the red wet kind)
How ever many dashes of Portuguese piri-piri you like (recipe below) or your favorite red hot sauce (Frank's© or Tabasco©).
2-3 Goya® seasoning packets (seafood type)
Juice from one lemon
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup fresh parsley (chopped, loosely packed)
Salt and pepper to taste
A good crusty bread or some rice

Put the saffron in the water and let steep overnight.

Place a deep saucepan on medium-high heat, when the pan warms, add the olive oil. When oil begins to shimmer add the shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink.

Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep the juices and oil in the pan. Put the shrimp aside and keep them warm.

Add the garlic to the pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes. DO NOT BROWN OR BURN THE GARLIC IT WILL GET BITTER.

Add the saffron and water, wine, paprika, crushed pepper, hot sauce, Goya seasoning and lemon juice. Bring this mixture to a boil, adjust to a lively simmer and allow it to reduce and thicken slightly.

Return the shrimp to the pan and continue simmering, stirring frequently for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the butter to the pan stirring frequently. Once butter melts, stir one more time, remove from heat and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish well with chopped parsley and serve over rice or by itself with a good crusty bread for dipping in the sauce which you will want to do again and again and again.

Piri-Piri Sauce

2 to 6 hot chili peppers (like Thai bird's eye or Szechuan peppers)*
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp of coarse sea salt
1 cup Portuguese olive oil
1/3 cup cider vinegar

De-stem but do not de-seed the peppers and then chop them coarsely (Wash your hands afterward and be careful not to touch your eyes fool!).

Combine the chopped peppers, red pepper flakes, salt, oil and vinegar in a bowl and mix together well. Then transfer to a suitable vinegar dispenser jar and allow to steep for a day or two.

Shake well before use.

Piri-Piri is great on a lot of different foods. Even shrimp that has been simply sauteed, broiled or boiled.
*If you want a mild sauce use less, if you want a fiery sauce use more.

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