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Illyanna Maisonet's Califas Shrimp

Makes 4 servings

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.

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 Rican shrimp and grits