The first time I made this recipe was for a cooking demonstration at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I used shrimp from one of the regular vendors, H&H Fresh Fish. I immediately became obsessed with their product—they have some of the most beautiful seafood I’ve encountered. Since 2003, Hans Haverman and Heidi Rhodes have been the resident seafood buyers at Santa Cruz Harbor, where H&H is based. They run a small and efficient operation that provides Bay Area residents with sustainable, regional seafood.
Puerto Rico has always been an island where the regional cooking depends entirely on available local resources. Colonization didn’t change that. Then it was about local resources and the types of crops that haciendas grew, prices of imported foodstuffs, and international political climate. This is why Califas Shrimp is and is not a traditional Puerto Rican dish. It’s one that eats like shrimp and grits, but combining seafood and funche has been a thing since enslaved Africans were forced to work in the sugarcane fields. Historically, bacalao was simmered with onions and tomatoes and served over funche. This cornmeal mush was cheaper than rice, which was a monetarily valuable commodity, and the mush was already something that enslaved people were used to eating. Slavers could appear to be doing a favor for enslaved people by forcing them to eat something relatively familiar when really it was just a cost-saving move to provide a nutrient-rich dish that could sustain a hard-working person for very little money.
1/4 cup Mexican chorizo
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp lemon juice, plus 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp Sazón
1/2 tsp sambal (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 cup sofrito (see note)
1 cup water
freshly ground Robusta Black Peppercorns
2 Tbsp salted butter
1 lb 26/30-count shrimp, peeled and deveined
funche for serving (see below)
2 cups water
1 cup ground polenta
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
2 Tbsp salted butter
Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and sauté for about 4 minutes, or until the meat begins to brown and renders some fat. Stir in the orange juice, lemon juice, sazón, sambal, sofrito and water to loosen the mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape the chorizo and sauce into a bowl and set aside.
In the same pan, combine the butter and shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute. Using tongs, flip the shrimp and cook for 1 minute more; the shrimp should be slightly pink. Add the chorizo mixture and sauce and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Spoon the funche (directions below) into serving bowls, top with the shrimp-chorizo mixture, and serve immediately.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 1 1/2 cups of the water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta. When the mixture begins to thicken slightly, turn the heat to low and add half of the coconut milk. (You do not want the coconut milk to boil because it may separate.) Cover and cook for about 40 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the polenta from sticking to the pan. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining coconut milk, then season with salt. If the polenta is still really thick, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup water.
Stir in the butter and serve immediately.
See the recipe for sofrito here.