Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bobó de Camarão - a velvety Afro-Brazilian stew

Training for my upcoming buffet meal at school the other day, I cooked my first Bobó de Camarão - a velvety shrimp, yucca and coconut stew-like concoction typical of the Northeast region of Brazil, especially the Bahia state, where the presence of African gastronomic traditions are more strongly felt.

I had eaten a few Bobós before, and had a very definite idea of how it should taste. After researching several recipes on the internet, which differed quite drastically, I came out with my own. The Brazilian audience that savored the final result - including a friend from Northeastern region who was visiting us - approved it enthusiastically.

My instructor, on the other hand, told me that the texture may not be very pleasant to the North American palate, as it is reminiscent of porridge, for its thickness and starchiness. But the texture, as well and the coconut, yucca and dendê oil flavor combination, is what pleases me the most.
I hope you feel tempted to try it too, so you can give me your opinion!

Bobó de Camarão
(Shrimp, Yucca and Coconut Stew)

Yield: 60 oz (6-8 portions)
18 oz frozen, peeled yucca
1 cup yucca cooking liquid (plus more, to adjust consistency)
1 can (14 fl. oz) coconut milk
1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp dendê oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz (1 cup) finely diced onion
1 oz (2 Tbsp) minced green bell pepper
1 tsp seeded, minced jalapeño
1 garlic clove, minced
0.5 oz cilantro stems (from approx. 1/2 bunch)
1 scallion, finely sliced
1 ripe tomato, seeded and finely diced
12 oz (14.5 oz frozen) peeled and deveined 51/60 (or smaller) shrimp
6 oz whole 36/41 shrimp, to garnish
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves (from approx. 1/2 bunch)

- Cook yucca in plain water (no salt) until fork tender. Drain, saving the cooking liquid. Working in batches, purée yucca while still hot in a food processor with the salt, coconut milk and 1 cup reserved liquid (save remaining liquid for thinning the stew later, if necessary).

- Heat dendê and olive oil in a large pan. Add onion, sauté until translucent. Add green pepper, jalapeño, garlic, cilantro stems and scallions and sauté until light golden brown. Add tomato and cook, stirring, until it starts to dissolve. Add shrimp and sauté until pinkish.

- Add prepared yucca cream and stir well to combine. Adjust salt and consistency adding more of the cooking liquid, if necessary.

- On a separate pan and working in batches, sauté whole shrimps in olive oil and a very thin drizzle of dendê oil. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

- Right before serving, add chopped cilantro to stew, saving some to decorate. Top serving dish or individual portions with sautéed shrimps and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro. Serve with white rice.