April 24, 2008

Enchilado de Camarones

Filed under: seafood,shellfish — Jose @ 11:26 am

One of the interesting phenomenon of a language that is spoken in so many places is how the same word will take on a different meaning or interpretation throughout. Sometimes, the word dissapears from the vernacular altogether. Case in point, “Chile” is not a word we Cubans use to describe any food items we cook with, it’s used exclusively to name a country (enter your guess in the comments below).

Our word for bell peppers is “Aji” (a-hee). There really was no need to go into naming all the different types of chiles or peppers because the “Bell” is the only one used in real-deal Cuban cooking. Ironic, actually, when you consider that one of the hottest peppers is named after a city who’s cuisine rarely (and even then, in minute amounts) uses it–the Habanero. For those under the wrong impression, let me clear my throat: Cuban food is spicy but not hot.

As much as I have eaten and enjoyed this dish all my life, I never really pondered the name because “enchilado” was just another crazy Cuban name for food like “chilindron” or “bistec” or “pulpeta” was. Etymologically speaking, it’s pretty straightforward “en – chil – ado”. I mean even you non-native speakers can probably guess the dish is chile centric. Then again, you’d be wrong. This is a misnamed dish, in fact. Even though it does take some Aji, It should be called “Entomatado de Camarones” because tomatoes are the prevalent ingredient.

If you’ve read even a couple of posts here, you’re already familiar with sofrito and how integral it is to so many Cuban dishes. This recipe is no different except it’s a bit heavier on the tomato and the protein makes it’s appearance in the pot during the last 5-10 minutes. It’s also a bit sweeter. “Pink” shrimp are in season right now (March – May) but this preparation takes well to crab, lobster, sea bass, prawns, scallops also. You’ll never think of an “enchilada” at Chevy’s the same.

  • It’s goin down:

  • 1/2 cupolive oil
  • 1large green or red pepper, chopped
  • 1large onion, chopped
  • 5 clovesGarlic, minced
  • 1/2 cupDry Sherry
  • 2 TbspTomato Paste
  • 7.5 oz(1/2 of a 15 oz can) tomato sauce
  • 1 tspSweet paprika (non-smoked)
  • 1Bay Leaf
  • 1 tspSugar or 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 cupShrimp head broth
  • 1.5 lbsLarge shrimp; un-peeled, uncooked. If heads are attached, then 2 lbs.
  • French hard stuff (cognac, etc)
To prepare the shrimp:

After rinsing under cool water, remove the heads, carapace and leg/tail skin from the shrimp.  Be careful to preserve the tail meat and not tear off along with that last bit of the tail. You can use a “shrimper” tool, but I like the hands-on feel. Reserve all this stuff you pull off in a pot. In order to preserve all it’s oceany goodness, remember not to run the shrimp under water again after the initial rinse.

Using a sharp paring knife, cut along the top of each peeled shrimp about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, you will come upon a thin, black/grey string-like piece that extends the length of the shrimp. Congratulations, you’ve encountered the poop chute. Delicately remove this (still no rinsing!). There is no need to remove the blue artery on the shrimp underside. Keep these shrimp in the fridge while we move on.

To make the broth:

Take your shrimp heads and carapaces and put them in a small pot, add a couple of smashed garlic cloves and maybe some fresh oregano, enough water to cover (at least 2 cups) and bring to a simmer. Simmer, slightly uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Remove your vessel from the heat, que the broth is done.

The sofrito:

Add the 1/2 cup olive oil to the medium heat casserole pan or dutch oven. Wait for the shimmer and smell and add the chopped onions and peppers. Cook, stirring every here and then until soft and turning a bit darker (about 8 minutes). Clear out some room in the middle, add a dollop of EVOO and add the minced garlic and cook it along with the onion and pepper for another 3-4 minutes. These veggies should be pretty soft now so add the 1/2 cup dry sherry, stir, deglaze and let that simmer down, uncovered until at least half the sherry has evaporated (like 2 minutes). Add the tomato paste to the 1 cup of head broth, stir and pour into pot along with the paprika, bay leaf, honey and tomato sauce. You can also add a dash of Tabasco or Sriracha (Yes, I did read the first two paragraphs of this post, but the heat cooks out with the heat). Stir some more, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes with the occasional stir. The sofrito can stick to the hot part of the pan, so stir profoundly!

You should have a thick, flavorful sofrito now. If you are happy with the consistency (cook longer if too watery), correct the seasonings by adding some salt or white pepper Once you are happy with the flavor, stir in the shrimp. Toss them about in the sauce until they start to go pink (about 3-4 minutes) and firm up just a bit. Add a splash of Cognac, Armagnac, Brandy or Calvados to the pot ( If your using a gas/open flame stove make sure to turn off the flame for this step). Stir, cover and turn off the heat. The residual heat will continue to cook the shrimp so get ready to eat just a couple of minutes later. You eat this over rice with some platanitos, a salad and Cuban bread (a soft baguette is close-ish).

P.S.: When it comes to fish and seafood, my parents generation would never dream of drinking water along with their seafood. It’s either wine (red, white, rosé) or milk or beer or whatever, just NO water. As in, “NO TV if you drink water with that enchilado”. I never have been able to wrap my head around that one but I encourage you to follow the tradition and diversify your table drinking habits as I do. Salud!



  1. Now I’m hungry………bro

    Comment by Roy M — August 12, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

  2. Yum!

    Comment by beeboop — October 9, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

  3. In Cuba ‘aji de la puta de su madre,’ also known as ‘aji guagui’ was used to make hot sauce to add a pinch to tamales and other dishes. This was not widespread of course because as you say Cuban food is spicy but not piquant. Also ‘aji cachucha,’ which was not hot was commonly used for making bean pottages. You can find ‘aji cachucha’ in Florida, California, and New York stores that cater to Cubans.

    Comment by Mamey — January 7, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  4. Well, this certainly validates the expression but the “p*** de su madre” designation is certainly not limited to ajies!

    Comment by Jose — January 7, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  5. Sorry…made a mistake. I meant to say ‘aji guaguao’ not guagui.

    Comment by Mamey — January 8, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  6. I’m cooking this as we speak. Your recipe is slightly different than the one my family has always prepared, but I like the idea of the shrimp stock (I’m adding that to this batch). I’ve never used peppers or honey, and use red wine instead of sherry. I’ll have to try your recipe one of these days!

    Comment by Jen — February 14, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  7. Aji gua guao also known as P**ga de mono. Someone’s mom shocked me with that one.

    Comment by Mel — September 11, 2009 @ 4:41 am

  8. There is just no end to the “barbaridades” we Cubans can come up with, is there?

    Comment by Jose — September 11, 2009 @ 9:13 am

  9. Esta muy interesante la receta, especialmente usando el caparazon de los camarones para hacer el caldo..

    Comment by GPLAZA — September 23, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  10. Muchas gracias… tambien se dice “caparazon”? Siempre lo he conocido come el “carapacho”

    Comment by Jose — September 23, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  11. Bueno, para ser sincero, yo no sabia que tambien se le llamaba caparazon hasta que lei un articulo al respecto: Aqui te pongo unas lineas del mismo;

    Noruega: Obtienen fertilizante ecológico de caparazón de camarón.Los caparazones de camarón contienen nutrientes en altas concentraciones, los que son extremadamente favorables como fertilizantes………

    En fin pienso que se le puede llamar de las dos formas.

    Comment by GPLAZA — September 23, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

  12. Tien­es raz­ón, es igual cara­pach­o que capa­raz­ón. Yo pref­iero cara­pach­o. Aquí te dejo un enla­ce útil para cada vez que teng­as duda­s: http­://busc­on­.rae­.es­/drae­I/ Y de ahí esta b­úsque­da: cara­pach­o 1. 1. m. Capa­raz­ón de las tort­ugas, los cang­rejo­s y otros anim­ales En cuan­to al voca­bula­rio ins­ólito que somos capa­ces de crea­r, el que se les escu­cha a nues­tros comp­atri­otas que han lleg­ado de Cuba en los últim­os años es prue­ba feha­cien­te de ello, y de lo que el aisl­amie­nto puede hace­rle al idio­ma. Esta noche prep­araré esta rece­ta que pare­ce estu­pend­a. Te feli­cito por tu blog.

    Comment by Luisabel — May 26, 2010 @ 8:44 am

  13. Exquisito. Quedó de rechupete. Sobró bastante salsa porque tenía menos camarones (que ya estaban cocinados y congelados porque no tengo tiempo) que los que lleva la receta, Guardamos la salsa para hacer algo muy cubano: mezclarla con arroz y ponerle un huevo frito encima. Creo que el toque de la miel y el brandy marcan la diferencia, una gran diferencia. Riquísimo.

    Comment by Luisabel — May 26, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  14. “carapacho o carapazon se refiere al cangrejo y la langosta, en la Habana se conocia como “cascara de camaronon”. La idea de la salsa con huevo frito suena muy bien, gracias por la nota

    Comment by Carlos — October 11, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  15. Really enjoy your blog – the cuban way of speaking is so rich! I fell out of my chair laughing that the monickers given to the green (hot) pepper. I never heard anyone in my family use the “puta de su madre” nor the “p–ga de mono”. Called my dad and he confirmed the use of the former, but neither he nor any of my family members knew of the latter. A little research – and it seems that the referenced hot pepper is more commonly known as the “Serrano Chile”. If you ever spent any time at a zoo – the “p–ga de mono” monicker begins to make sense. Funny stuff. BTW – the recipe is terrific – I normally use a recipe from JuanPerez.com that’s also quite tasty but I prefer the one on this blog as it more closely reminds me of my mom’s version.

    Comment by ArrozConMango — April 6, 2011 @ 7:37 am

  16. impresionante trabajo me ha gustado mucho

    Comment by gilberto — February 2, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

  17. Hola, Muy buena la receta, nunca habia hecho el caldo, usaba cubitos de pescado, pero es una muy buena idea de user el carapacho para el caldo, nunca se me hubiera ocurrido. Gracias. Hoy por la noche voy a cocinar “Enchilado de Camarones”

    Comment by Carlota G. piña — June 20, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

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  19. I think onions are missing from the ingredients list!

    Comment by Jenn — May 25, 2016 @ 11:06 am

  20. Good catch Jenn! Fixed.

    Comment by admin — June 8, 2016 @ 11:48 pm

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