I recently had the amazing chance to experience a seafood cooking session with culinary student Emme Ribeiro thanks to the team at Aquabest NYC.
Emme is busy – when she’s not in culinary school, she’s writing for her personal blog, Food Samba, and operates as the Restaurant & Catering Manager for her family’s restaurant, Tempero do Brasil. We sat down in my kitchen and I got to watch a master cook in action, turning polenta and tomatoes into her spicy take on shrimp and grits.
Before we check out the recipe, Emme had some insight about the dish, Brazilian food, and cooking with seafood.
CL: What inspired you to go with that awesome variation of shrimp and grits?
EM: I love shrimp and grits. In Brazil, we make something called pirao that is similar to grits in texture, but is made with manioc flour. A lot of seafood dishes are eaten with pirao and also topped with spicy pico de gallo. This recipe is sort of a play on that seafood, pirao, and pico de gallo combination.
CL: Can you tell us a bit more about your food background, and what influences your cooking?
EM: I was born in Brazil and came to the US when I was six years old. Food is a huge part of the Brazilian culture and from the moment I was born it has been a major part of my life. When I was a baby in Brazil, my mom ran a catering business out of our home and now she runs a Brazilian restaurant, Tempero do Brasil, here in Seattle. She has definitely been my role model in the food world. My cooking is heavily influenced by my mom and my Brazilian culture.
CL: What should nervous home cooks do for cooking with live seafood the first time?
EM: First off, don’t be nervous. It may seem intimidating, but as an example, crab is one of the easiest thing to cook. It is as simple as boiling a large pot of water with seasonings and aromatics – you can get creative here with things such as bay leaves, fennel seeds, cumin – and when it comes to a boil adding the crab. Cook until the crab turns red – about 10-15 minutes. To accompany the crab, you can make a delicious compound butter with fresh and/or dried herbs.
To make a compound butter simply take cold butter, put it in a bowl, sprinkle fresh and/or dried herbs and seasonings, and mix it it. Place the butter on top of a piece of plastic wrap in a long rope-shape. Roll the plastic wrap over the butter, gently forming it into a log, tucking the ends under. Pop it into the refrigerator or the freezer, and chill until hard and set. That’s it!
Emme says shrimp is also super easy. She showed us how, with this deliciously creamy shrimp and polenta recipe below.
Sautéed Shrimp with Mascarpone Polenta and Tomato-Avocado Vinaigrette
© Emme Ribeiro, Food Samba
For the Shrimp:
1 tbsp olive oil
1lb shrimp peeled and deveined
1 large garlic clove minced
1tsp lime juice
In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil. Add shrimp, salt and pepper and cook until they turn pink. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, being careful not to burn. Deglaze the pan with lime juice and remove from heat.
For the Mascarpone Polenta:
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup mascarpone
In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Add butter and salt. Very gradually, add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently with a heavy wooden spoon until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the mascarpone to the polenta and adjust the seasoning to taste.
For the Tomato-Avocado Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1 tbsp honey
2 tomato, small dice
1 avocado, pitted small dice
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1tsp cumin seed, toasted
In a medium bowl, add olive oil, sherry vinegar, and honey. Whisk until well combined. Add tomato, avocado, cilantro, and cumin seeds. Gently stir until everything is well incorporated.
To Assemble: Spoon polenta onto a large platter, place sauteed shrimp on top of polenta and top off with tomato-avocado vinaigrette.
You can order live seafood including lobster, crab, shrimp, and more from Aqua Best NYC at their website, AquaBestNYC.com, or visit them in person at their fish market at 276 Grand Street, in New York City, NY.