About a month ago, I was introduced to this exquisite shrimp dish in Miramar, a lush suburb of Havana, Cuba. The recipe is known by a few names – Shrimp Creole, Shrimp Enchilados and Shrimp a la Cubana. It consists of fresh, wild-caught shrimp, tomatoes, bell pepper, white wine and some other wonderful ingredients. While most recipes utilize canned tomatoes and ketchup, I prefer fresh, organic tomatoes and a little sugar.

Back in Havana, accompanied by my husband and friends at a “paladar particular” or privately-owned restaurant in Miramar, the entire experience was as delicious as the shrimp.

Prep time: 50 to 55 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

6 to 8 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (organic, if possible)
1 red bell pepper, halved (seeds and stem discarded)
1 medium white or brown onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine or dry Sherry
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 bay leaves
Dash ground cumin (less than 1/8 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper
*1 to 1-1/2 pounds large shrimp, deveined and shells discarded
[*Use 1 pound for 4 people; 1-1/2 pounds for 6 people]

1. Place tomatoes and bell pepper pieces in a 6-quart saucepot and cover with cold water.

2. Cover, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Drain the tomatoes and bell pepper pieces; cover them with cold water and set aside 5 minutes (they will cool quickly for easy handling).

4. After 5 minutes, peel the tomatoes, discarding skins and green stems.

5. Place tomatoes and bell pepper pieces in a blender.

6. Purée and strain the tomato mixture into a large glass or porcelain bowl; set aside.

7. Meanwhile, in a food processor, finely chop together the onion and garlic; set aside.

8. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil. Stir the onion and garlic mixture into the oil and sauté on medium heat about 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is translucent.

9. Stir the puréed tomatoes, wine or Sherry, sugar, bay leaves, cumin, salt and black pepper into the sautéed onion mixture. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, about 6 to 8 minutes.

10. In the meantime, rinse the shrimp under cold water and drain.

11. Add the shrimp to the simmering sauce and cook on medium-low about 6 to 7 minutes or until shrimp is white and opaque.

12. After 6 minutes of cooking, taste a shrimp – it should be crunchy but not tough or overcooked.

Serve immediately, accompanied by steamed white rice or Cuban Black Beans & Rice, previously published on this blog.

Wine pairing suggestion: Chilled Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.

Text & Photograph © 2011 Nancy DeLucia Real