C. De Melo is a Renaissance Art Historian & Author specializing in historical novels set in Italy. Please visit cdemelo (dot) com
Easy & Exotic Recipe
I have always been a fan of shrimp, or camarão (kah-mahr-ow) in Portuguese. This is a very popular dish in Portuguese restaurants. If you are a seafood lover like I am, you will appreciate this recipe. Easy to make, aromatic, and spicy, it is flavored with one of the world's most expensive spices: saffron.
How to select and devein shrimp: Make sure that you buy the freshest shrimp possible and that it is medium to large in size (not too large, however—the jumbo size are best grilled). Raw shrimp should look moist and translucent, and it should have a firm consistency. There should be no smell—fresh seafood (even fish) does not have a strong odor. I prefer to completely peel my shrimp so that my guests do not have to perform that task on their plates, but you can do as you like. The way I devein shrimp is by placing the tip of my paring knife under the vein and pulling it out gently. Another way is to cut along the whole back of the shrimp, pry it open just a bit and scrape the vein out. Rinse shrimp with cold water when you are done. Place them in a strainer to completely remove all water, then place them on a plate. I like to lightly pat them with a paper towel so that I am not throwing soggy, wet shrimp into a hot pan.
- 1 pound raw, peeled shrimp (note: 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp with peel = 1 lb peeled)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 c butter
- 1 T tomato paste
- olive oil
- 1/2 can of beer
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 t sweet red paprika
- 1 t commercial powdered saffron (if using high quality powder, use 1/4-1/2t, if using saffron threads, crush a few and soak in hot water for 10 min before using)
- a handful of fresh, chopped parsley
- tobasco sauce and/or red pepper flakes- to taste (I like it spicy, so I use a bit of both)
- salt- to taste
- freshly chopped scallions for garnish (optional)
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- Drizzle olive oil in a large, hot skillet and cook shrimp. Cook only a few at a time so that you can be sure that they do not overcook. As soon as they begin to curl and no longer look translucent, remove them from the heat immediately and place them in a deep plate. Overcooking shrimp will make them rubbery instead of tender. When all the shrimp are cooked, set them aside and prepare your sauce.
- Using same skillet, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil and sauté garlic. Lower heat and add butter.
- When butter melts, mix in tomato paste, paprika and saffron. Stir for a minute.
- Add beer all at once, stir and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes on low heat. Add lemon juice, tabasco and salt to taste. Simmer 5 minutes more. Just before removing from heat, throw in the parsley.
- Pour the sauce over the shrimp in the plate or arrange the shrimp on a bed of rice and pour the sauce over them.
NOTE: Some recipes substitute the salt, paprika and saffron for one packet of Goya's Sazón Con Azafran. I have tried this, and it works great (makes the recipe even easier). I have also used this Goya seasoning when making rice and chicken. Other recipes tell you to allow the shrimp to soak in the sauce so that they absorb the flavors, but I refrain from doing this because the shrimp tends to get dry and tough.
I would serve a white wine with a floral, fruity nose and good acidity like a Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer reds, you can easily serve a red wine with this dish because the sauce has enough substantial spices to carry it off. I recommend a Shiraz or Merlot. Try it out and let me know how it turns out. Thank you for reading!
How to Clean and Devein Shrimp (or Prawns)
© 2011 C De Melo