Açorda de Mariscos

(Portuguese Bread Soup with Jumbo Shrimp)

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 to 8 as an appetizer



Ingredients
  • 1 pound (about1/2 loaf)      dried-out broa or any sturdy farmhouse bread
  • 2 large                  onions or leeks
  • 2/3 cup                 olive oil
  • 4 pounds              ripe tomatoes
  • 1 whole head       garlic, separated into cloves and skinned
  • 1 teaspoon           black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon           coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon           dried oregano
  • 1 pound                raw jumbo shrimp, shelled or not, as you please
  • 4 ounces               chouriço, roughly sliced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon         anchovy paste or 2-3 canned anchovy fillets, crushed (optional)
For finishing
  • A small tap of butter (optional)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, plenty

Instructions
  • Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces. Let it immerse in a bowl of salted water for a pair of hours, then squeeze dry, using your hands.
  • Meanwhile, finely slice the onions or leeks and fry softly in half the olive oil until soft and golden — 30 minutes is not too long. Chop the tomatoes and let them cook down to half their volume in a roomy stew pot with the rest of the olive oil and the garlic.
  • Crush the peppercorns and coriander seeds in a mortar and add them to the tomatoes, along with the oregano. When the tomatoes are well cooked down, push through a strainer, return to the pan, and mix in the soaked, squeezed-out bread and 4 cups of fresh water. Let it bubble up and cook softly for another 20 minutes, then mix in the contents of the frying pan along with the jumbo shrimp, the sliced chouriço, if using, and an optional dash of anchovies to bring up the fishy flavor.
  • Cook for another 20 minutes, until the bread is completely amalgamated with the broth. Mix in a tap of butter and finish with a liberal scattering of fresh chopped cilantro.

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