I was feeling like listening to Brazilian music the other day. For some reason, I haven’t been doing that as often lately, and I was missing the cool, soothing sounds of Bossa Nova. I like the old guard, so I set my iTunes for classics from João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Elizete Cardoso, Maysa, Caetano Veloso and other Brazilian singers from the 50’s and 60’s of less international prominence. I was really getting into the groove, that is until a song by Carmen Miranda came on. Wait a minute! Carmen Miranda has nothing to do with Bossa Nova. I happily listened to her sing, but then I moved her to a different folder.
Here’s the song:
In this samba-styled song “Disseram que eu voltei americanizada,” Carmem is criticized by the crowd for returning to Brazil completely Americanized after her stint in Hollywood. She’s accused of forgetting her roots. Here, she argues that though she may have become a bit Americanized, she reassures her fans that she’s never been more Brazilian. As proof, she still likes and sings samba, and enjoys some of its most popular musical instruments, such as the tambourine, or ‘cuíca.’
Believe it or not, the last couple of sentences in the lyrics are about food! She sings that when it comes to food her favorite is camarão com chuchu, or shrimp with chayote. So today I offer this adaptation of Carmen’s favorite dish. The original is more like a stew. You sauté all the ingredients together and serve it over rice. In my version I broiled the shrimp and prepared the chuchu with Brazilian corn flakes, giving the dish a sort of tamale/polenta look, texture and taste. Delish!
There are two kinds of chayote commonly available. One is smooth and the other has sharp bristles on the surface of the skin. Usually I use the smooth, as it tends to be easier to handle. This time, I had the bristly one. If you’re using the later, than you should be very careful and wear gloves to peel the little monsters, or you could get hurt.
camarão com chuchu AKA shrimp with chayote
2 chayotes, peeled, pitted and passed through the mandolin
1 lb shrimp, shelled, deveined, tails on
4 cloves garlic crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp paprika
2 tbsp Italian parsley
¼ tsp cumin
Crushed red pepper
8 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vegetarian bouillon paste
4 tbsp farinha de milho (Brazilian corn flakes)
Rinse and drain shrimp. Toss shrimp with salt, peppers, Italian parsley, cumin, lemon zest, paprika, 1 tbsp olive oil and the equivalent of 1 garlic clove. Let it marinate for 10-15 minutes.
Turn oven on to broil.
Place 3 tbsp olive oil on a saucepan, add remaining garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add chayote, salt, black pepper, vegetarian bouillon, give it a good stir then cover pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add ½ cup of water and further cook until chayote threads are soft. Incorporate corn flakes stirring to make a thick porridge. You may need to add a bit more water to get the desired consistency. Remove from heat. Set aside, keeping it warm.
Meanwhile place marinated shrimp in a single layer on a baking tray. Drizzle with lemon juice and some olive oil and broil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven.
Place chayote porridge on a serving platter, top with shrimp, drizzle with finishing olive oil and some of the juices from shrimp. Serve with a crisp white wine.