“Christmas Shrimp” Mozambique Style with Quinoa

Shrimp Mozambique is a classic, spicy dish and one of my childhood favorites. It was pretty much the only thing I would order as a kid when being dragged to some hole-in-the-wall Portuguese joint because things like salted codfish and egg laden steaks made no sense to me. Recently I realized that after all these years I had never actually attempted to make it myself. The time had come. I decided this would be an excellent addition to our Christmas family dinner, which never has any rhyme or reason to it anyway. My only concern was that I would be serving the “not so Portuguese” side of my family, meaning, not everyone can handle the heat.

Admittedly, I can tolerate more capsaicin than the average gal. This trait often becomes my downfall as a cook, but I was determined to tweak this recipe to a palatable level of fire. Everyone survived, despite some forehead sweat and runny noses. A few even braved seconds. This meal went well enough for it to be forever known as “Christmas Shrimp”.

Shrimp Mozambique w Quinoa

Here’s what you need:

– (1) lb. Shrimp

– Splash, Maybe Two of Olive Oil

– (2-3) Heaping Tbsps. of Minced Garlic

– (1) Shallot or (1/2) Small Sweet Onion Diced (Or both, I don’t care. You’ll like it either way.)

– (1-2) Tbsps. Crushed Red Pepper (I like at least 3 tbsps, but I live on the edge.)

– Several Sprigs of FRESH Thyme

– Several Shakes of Black Pepper

– Pinch or Two of Cayenne Pepper

– Pinch of Cumin

– (2) Whole Lemons (Juice)

– (1/2) Cup of Hot Sauce (Frank’s Red Hot or something of the like, so help me God if you use Tabasco. Way too much vinegar, you’ll ruin everything.)

– (1) Can of the Cheapest Beer Available

– (1/4) Cup of Honey

– (2-3) Tbsps. of Butter

Firstly, peel and devein your shrimp and set aside.

Now you can coat a skillet with a bit of olive oil. Toss in your minced garlic, diced shallots/onion, crushed red pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin and chopped fresh thyme. Keep on low heat for at least 10 minutes and stir occasionally. The shallots/onions will become clear, the garlic will become slightly toasted and all other seasonings will infuse the olive oil.

Next, juice the two lemons and continue to stir. Dump in the hot sauce, stir. Grab that cheap beer. If you have some Natty Ice leftover from college in the back corner of your fridge, embrace it. That is all you need. Pour the whole thing in, and reduce it down. This really brings out the flavor. Somewhere in this reduction process I add the honey. Keep stirring, don’t let the bottom burn. Once the beer has completely cooked down, I add a couple tablespoons of butter. This can easily be omitted if you want to keep it dairy free, but it adds a little richness and it mellows the spice. If you feel you over reduced the sauce and it tastes a bit sweet, no worries, add some extra olive oil.

Finally, I like to coat all the shrimp with the sauce and let them marinate for 30 minutes to an hour. If you don’t have time, cook away. Serve over quinoa (I’ll explain this in a minute) and garnish with thyme. You will almost certainly have a lot of sauce leftover, but don’t worry, it’s delicious and you will put it on everything.

 *Side note on the garlic quantity:  I like A LOT of garlic, like, I don’t care about my breath, a lot. I think it makes the dish, but if you’re the kind of person who oozes the vampire defeating scent from every pore, you can get away with 1 healthy tablespoon.

*Side note on thyme: make sure it’s fresh, or don’t even bother and be sure to reserve a bit to garnish with at the end.

*Side note on crushed red pepper, black pepper, cayenne, and cumin… I basically made up those quantities all together. I keep adding as I go along, but those numbers seem like a decent baseline. Make sure you KEEP TASTING throughout the process. Don’t hold me to any of the above if you don’t bother to keep tabs as you go.

Quinoa

Shrimp Mozambique is typically served over rice. Meh, that never excited me much. I know that makes me a bad Portugee for saying so, but I figured, hey, we can do better. Bring on the quinoa! It’s a super food, it absorbs flavor, and it’s loaded with protein. This side with the sauce above could easily be a vegan meal in itself. OK, OK, before I lose anymore credibility in the Portuguese community, I do bring back tradition with the addition of pickled vegetables.

Pickled Veg

One of these days, I will pickle all the veggies myself. In the mean time, I just pick up a jar of giardiniera. This typically consists of carrots, celery, peppers, olives & cauliflower. This mix is my JAM. The brininess of the pickled vegetables pairs really well with the sweet and spicy sauce. They also round out the textures of the dish, adding a much needed crunch.

Here’s what you need:

– (1) Cup of Quinoa

– (1) Lemon

– Several Sprigs of FRESH Thyme

– (1) Jar of Giardiniera (Pickled Veggies)

– Salt & Pepper to Taste

– Dash of Olive Oil

Very simple, quinoa goes in a small sauce pan. Add two cups of water (always a 2:1 ratio with quinoa) and juice one whole lemon. I also throw the leftover lemon shell in to cook with the quinoa for added flavor. Chop up several springs of thyme and toss them in as well. Keep stirring and cook the quinoa until all water is gone. Drain the jar of giardiniera and roughly chop all the veggies. Make sure to remove any stems that might be on the peppers. Fold these veggies into the quinoa, add a dash of olive oil and salt & pepper to taste. Oh, and this is a no brainer to me, but don’t forget to remove those lemon shells! DONE.

This concludes my first post. Be sure to give it a try and let me know how it goes! If it’s terrible, I accept no responsibility. I wrote this at 2:30 in the morning.

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