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Camarão com catupiry na Moranga is a famous Brazilian dish consisting of creamy shrimp served inside a large pumpkin—the perfect dish for a special occasion. With an incredible flavour and a rustic yet sophisticated presentation, this recipe is sure to impress everyone! It is EPIC! Delicious and oh so comforting. Right on time for the holidays!
This recipe is one of my mom’s recipes and my favourite dish ever. Whenever I go to Brazil, my Godmother makes “camarão com catupiry” for me.
Typically seen at Brazilian dinner parties, Christmas and New Year’s parties, birthdays, and anniversaries,” Camarão na moranga” makes a stand-out centrepiece for a fancy dinner table. It is one of the most delightful ways to serve a crowd.
Camarão na moranga is a traditional Brazilian recipe that enchants everyone who tries it. Not only for its rich flavour, but also for its somewhat unusual presentation, far from the traditional pan or platter.
Oh, and don’t worry! Although it might seem intimidating, camarão na moranga is pretty easy to make. The only part that needs a little effort is preparing the pumpkin. But if you follow the steps below, it’ll be a breeze.
The traditional recipe uses Catupiry, a Brazilian creamy cheese to be spread inside the scooped pumpkin before filling it with the shrimp cream, but here, in Canada and US, it isn’t easy to find it, so I have used cream cheese as a substitute, and it turned out perfect!
Give it a try! You are going to love this delightful entrée!
We Brazilians enjoy this amazing traditional Brazilian food recipe all year round! However, here in North America, you’ll only be able to find pumpkins in the fall through winter unless you find Kabocha, which is my second choice of pumpkin for this recipe.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you don’t find a pumpkin, this recipe can also be made in a casserole glass dish, which is still delicious and beautiful. That’s how my Godmother makes it for me when I go to Brazil, and my mom used to prepare everyday meals!
Serve it with rice and potato sticks (batata palha), trying to scoop out some moist pumpkin flesh.
You can also use this creamy shrimp as a quiche filling (empadão de camarão) using this Chicken pot pie or Three-cheese & leek quiche pastry dough recipe.
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Season the shrimp
Prepare the quick Shrimp broth (for extra flavour, use this Shrimp stock with mirepoix)
- Shrimp - heads, shells, and tails
- 2 cups Water - boiling
- 1 tbsp Hondashi - Bonito fish soup stock - optional
- Salt - optional to taste
Prepare the shrimp cream
- 1 tbsp Olive oil - or any vegetable oil
- 1 Onion - large chopped
- 4 cloves Garlic - minced – or more to taste
- 1/2 cup Tomato sauce - or diced tomatoes
- 6 tbsp All-purpose flour
- 3 cups Milk
- Salt - to taste
- Black pepper - to taste
- 1 cup Cream - whipping cream/thick cream/heavy cream/evaporated milk
- 1 Pumpkin - 1 medium Cinderella pumpkin or 4 mini pumpkins for elegant individual portions - optional
- 250 g Cream cheese - or Brazilian catupiry or requeijão – room temperature
- Parsley - and/or Cilantro
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Season the Shrimp
- Season shrimp (peeled) with salt, Lemon Juice, Thyme Leaves, Cilantro Leaves, HonDashi (Bonito Fish Soup Stock), Paprika, Parsley, chives or green onion.
Prepare the quick Shrimp broth
- Note: If you have time, I recommend you use this Shrimp stock with mirepoix for extra flavour.
- Give Shrimp heads, shells, and tails a quick rinse under cold water first.
- Place the heads, shells, and tails in a Small Saucepan with enough water to cover the shells. Add salt and HonDashi (Bonito Fish Soup Stock) to improve the taste.
- Simmer the whole thing uncovered until the water takes on a light orange-stock colour, about 10-15 minutes.
- Blend the shells and water in a blender and then strain all the solid.
- Use the stock in your shrimp recipe for an extra boost of flavour.
Prepare the Shrimp cream
- In a large pan, heat the oil, add the seasoned shrimp and sauté the shrimp until pink.
- Attention: Be careful not to overcook the shrimp, or they will become tough. They will cook fast! All shrimp should appear pink with red tails. They should appear slightly white, but too much white means you've overcooked your shrimp.
- Remove shrimp and set aside.
- If needed, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan; add the onion and cook until it's slightly translucent, for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds.
- Add the tomato sauce and cook for 5 min.
- Add the flour dissolved in milk and shrimp stock (for each 1 cup milk + 1 cup Shrimp stock, use 2-3 tbsp white flour), salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir until boiling and thickened.
- Add the cream (whipping cream/thick cream/heavy cream/evaporated milk) and remove it from the heat.
- Add fresh cilantro. Set aside.
Finishing (with the pumpkin)
- Wash and dry the pumpkin.
- Cut a circle around the stem of the pumpkin. You will want it to be wide enough that you can easily fit a serving spoon into it later. Reserve the lid with the stem.
- Remove seeds with a spoon. Scrape it right down so that the pumpkin flesh is nice and clean.
- Tip: You can toast the seeds for a tasty snack! See notes.
- You can microwave the pumpkin for 5-10 minutes if you want. A toothpick should be able to penetrate without too much resistance. Be careful not to overcook it, as it may collapse. If water forms inside the pumpkin, scoop it out before adding the filling.
- Using a spoon, spread the cream cheese (make sure it's softened) inside the pumpkin, trying to coat all the inside areas (sides and bottom) of the pumpkin with the cream cheese.
- Place the pumpkin in an oven-safe dish.
- Pour shrimp into the pumpkin, then shrimp cream, and then the shrimp again.
- Note: Avoid moving the pumpkin from its place after filling it so that the bottom won't break with the weight of the filling.
- Finish with the cream cheese.
- Note: Some people also like to finish it with a layer of mozzarella or grated Parmesan cheese before placing it in the oven for a delicious gratin effect!
- Place the lid of the pumpkin and bake in preheated oven at 180 C (356 F) for about 15-30 minutes. The cheese should be nice and melted, and the pumpkin inside is soft and scoopable.
- Note: The cooking time for the squash varies a lot depending on its size. A small pie pumpkin should cook quickly, but a 4kg/8lb would take longer. Keep testing it for softness to avoid overcooking.
- Be careful not to overcook the shrimp as they can become rubbery.
- Be careful not to overcook the pumpkin, as it may collapse.
Finishing (with the casserole dish)
- Note: if you don’t have a pumpkin, make it in a casserole dish.
- Cover the sides and bottom of the Casserole Dish with cream cheese.
- Pour shrimp into the casserole dish, then Shrimp cream and then again the shrimp.
- Finish with the cream cheese.
- Bake in preheated oven at 180C (356F) for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.
- Remove from the oven, and sprinkle it with additional freshly chopped chives, parsley and/or cilantro.
- Dig deep with your serving spoon to scoop out lots of melty cheese and soft pumpkin flesh.
- While this dish is already a meal, it is often served with white rice and batata palha (Potato Sticks). A leafy green salad goes well too. Baby arugula is excellent with this dish.
- If desired for presentation, you can go the extra mile and garnish the pumpkin opening by hanging a few prawns or large shrimps (fried or just boiled in salted water) on the top edge.
Which pumpkin or squash to use?This dish is traditionally made in a moranga. The Brazilian Moranga squash is ribbed, light pink to salmon in colour, weighing in at about 2-4kg (4-8 pounds). The Moranga Winter squash variety isn’t always easy to find, but there are plenty of pumpkins or Winter squash that can be effectively used for this dish.
For presentation purposes, opt for an orange or brightly coloured pumpkin that will highlight the somewhat creamy tan colour of the filling, such as an orange ribbed heirloom pumpkin called Rouge Vif d’Etampes (Cinderella pumpkin). The most similar to Moranga here in North America. For taste purposes, opt for a squash that has a creamy, sweet taste, like pie pumpkins, Kabocha or some of the sweet heirloom varieties. A deep orange pumpkin around 1.5Kg (3 lbs) with ribs is also a good option.
Another tasty heirloom variety that would work well is the Long Island Cheese variety. Long Island Cheese squash is a beautiful, buff-tan colour and is dense and nutty. Another option if you are making this for dinner guests is to use small mini-pumpkins that arrive in supermarkets during the Thanksgiving season. They make beautiful individual dishes for Fall gatherings. One of those, filled with shrimp and cheese, is perfect for one smaller serving person. NEVER use the bright orange Jack-o-Lantern types. Remember, those giant orange decorative pumpkins you see at the supermarket in October are not as flavourful and should only be used to carve Halloween decorations!
Tip for buying the pumpkinIt all starts with the right pumpkin. To display the pumpkin to serve out of, look for the prettiest, roundest pumpkin you can find. Buy a pumpkin with no bruises, so there's no risk of it being rotten on the inside. Choose an opaque pumpkin with a dry stalk. If the stem is green, it means that it has not matured.
Which cheese to use?The recipe calls for a typical Brazilian ingredient, requeijão, a creamy cheese. The best type of requeijão used in Brazil, Catipury, is not easily found in most of North America’s grocery stories. Instead, either cream cheese or mascarpone cheese makes a great substitute.
Thickening agentI use all-purpose flour dissolved in milk and shrimp stock. For each 1 cup milk + 1 cup shrimp stock, use 2-3 tbsp white flour. This mixture will help to thicken the cream. Some people use cornstarch, but I think it's better with flour. However, if you need to omit gluten, you can use cornstarch instead.
CreamBrazilians use thick cream that comes in a can. I use whipping cream! I have not tried making this dish with non-dairy milk, but I’ve seen other recipes using coconut milk! However, if you need to make this dish less caloric, you can use fat-free evaporated milk or omit the cream.
Which kind of shrimp?If you do not live by the sea and don’t have access to a good fish market that sells fresh-off-the-boat seafood, buy frozen shrimp, as that will be the freshest shrimp you can get. Despite popular opinion, frozen shrimp is fresher than “fresh” shrimp in most cases. When fishermen get shrimp, they immediately throw them into ice, freezing them within a very short time of being out of the water. The display of “fresh” shrimp that you see at the fish counter? Those are most likely the same frozen shrimp that have been allowed to thaw in the store. And there’s no way to tell how many days they’ve been sitting there, getting less fresh by the minute. You will find several types and sizes of shrimp at the grocery store. Head on or off, the shell on or off, the vein removed or intact, tail-on or tailless that can be quite intimidating! White or pink shrimp will work in this recipe! I prefer the taste of the ones I peel and remove the tails myself. I also like to use the shells and tails to make the broth for extra flavour. But you can buy them already peeled and deveined if you prefer. Make sure you are not buying pre-cooked shrimp, as those are almost always overcooked, meaning they will be rubbery and quite bland. As for size, stick to medium or large. You want every ladleful to have a lot of shrimp versus just one or two big ones. You can also get a few large prawns (head-on, skin-on) and cook them to decorate the pumpkin at the end.
How to thaw frozen shrimp?You need to thaw your frozen shrimp before using it in this recipe! Just place them in a strainer and run them under cold water until they are thawed. Alternatively, let them sit in a bowl of cold water until defrosted. Then, wipe them dry with a paper towel and use them as soon as possible, as they will lose their freshness as they sit.
Making aheadIf making it ahead, heat the creamy shrimp in a pan and then pour it into the pumpkin maximum of 15 minutes before serving time; and bake in the oven till the cheese is melted and hot. However, reheating shrimp is always a risk. Try not to overcook the shrimp too much, as it will get tough if overcooked. Rubbery shrimp will ruin the whole dish!
How long will leftovers keep in the fridge?Leftovers, if stored in an airtight container, will keep for up to 3 days. You will want to scoop out as much as possible from the bottom and sides of the pumpkin. You can store the pumpkin flesh with the shrimp cream in a container and discard the large pumpkin shell.
How do I reheat it?Reheat leftovers in a saucepan over medium-low heat, adding more cream as needed to return to the original consistency. Try not to overcook the shrimp too much, as it will get tough if overcooked.
Can I freeze it?Again, when reheated, the shrimp will inevitably be tougher than when it was freshly cooked. But, yes, you can freeze leftovers! When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat on the stove.
What to do with pumpkin seedsIf desired, reserve pumpkin seeds for roasting with your favourite spices for a healthy snack that can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week. To roast them, start by removing and washing them. Dry the seeds well to avoid adding to the cooking time. Spread pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours, or until completely dry. Once dry, toss with olive oil and your favourite seasonings. Seasoning ideas include salt, garlic, paprika and black pepper. Then, roast in a 160-180˚C/325-350˚F oven, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 30 minutes or until golden and crisp. Let cool completely before storing it. Once you have roasted seeds, there is a lot you can do with them. Consider eating them straight out of the oven as a snack, garnishing a soup or topping a salad. When it comes to seeds, you can be creative with how you want to use them. Some may add them to tacos for crunchiness or blend them into hummus.
What is Hondashi®?Hondashi® is a Bonito fish-based seasoning for those who like to make the preparations even tastier, also stimulating a balanced and flavourful diet. Hondashi® guarantees the authentic taste of fish to the preparations and can be used in the most varied recipes with fish, seafood, oriental recipes and fish-based broths, giving a delicious and full-bodied flavour!
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