In Cuban cuisine, a pool of hot, buttery “harina” (cornmeal) makes a delicious bed for sauteed shrimp, Creole-style crab or meat picadillo. Here, we offer our version of Cuban shrimp and “grits,” a comfort dish that’s a cinch to make with fine cornmeal.
A word about the sofrito: To enhance garlic flavor, use a mortar and pestle to pound garlic, salt and herb into a paste before adding to the skillet.
For the sofrito:
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3 tablespoons olive oil
6 to 8 cloves garlic
6 to 8 cilantro stems with leaves (short, tender stems only; can use parsley instead)
1/3 large white or yellow onion, finely chopped
¼ green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon dry cooking sherry
Salt and fresh-ground pepper
For the shrimp:
1 pound fresh shrimp, cleaned, with tail on
Splash of dry cooking sherry or white wine
For the cornmeal:
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup fine cornmeal
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
Fresh ground black pepper
1. Make the sofrito: In a mortar, add garlic cloves and a sprinkling of salt. Pound with pestle until a paste begins to form. Add cilantro and pound into garlic mixture until ingredients are thoroughly muddled. Set aside.
2. Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, add oil. When oil is hot, add onions and green pepper. Saute until onions start to turn translucent. Add garlic-cilantro paste and stir together with a wooden spoon.
3. Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Add sherry and black pepper and combine well. Set skillet aside.
Note: This sofrito can be used as a base for soups, stews or sauces, as a saute base for meats and veggies, or simply to doctor up canned beans.
4. Make the cornmeal: In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add salt. Slowly add cornmeal while constantly stirring. Add butter and stir.
5. Reduce heat and allow cornmeal to cook and thicken, stirring often. Fine cornmeal will cook quickly. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Cornmeal should be the consistency of thick oatmeal. If too thick, add water, stir and cook till combined. Set aside.
6. Make the shrimp: Heat sofrito skillet over medium-high heat. If pan is too dry, add a touch of olive oil and heat up.
7. When pan and ingredients are hot, add shrimp. Quickly saute to coat the shrimp with sofrito. (Shrimp will cook very quickly, so stay close by.) Add splash of sherry or white wine and allow it to sizzle as you stir skillet. Remove from heat.
8. To serve, spoon cornmeal into center shallow bowl. Top with Sofrito Shrimp. For an added flavor kick, drizzle with extra virgin oil and add a sprinkling of chopped cilantro or parsley.
— From Palm Beach Post