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Last updated: Mon. Jan. 28, 2013 - 10:46 am EDT

Local food blogger on ABC's 'The Taste'

Cynthia Presser, of Fort Wayne, was featured on ABC's debut  episode of the cooking show, "The Taste," which pits professional cooks against home cookers, each providing four celebrity judges a single taste of his or her dish.

Presser, originally from Brazil, made a Brazilian dish, Shrimp and Yuca Brazilian-Style Gratin. She did not advance from the top 60 to the top 16, but she calls her experience an exciting opportunity that actually changed the way she made this recipe; judge and chef Ludo Lefebvre gave Presser feedback she has already incorporated into her recipe.

"He said I need something a little bit spicier and a little bit crunchier, so I added the topping, a farofa, which is a Brazilian crunchy topping," Presser says. "I also added extra heat in the tomato sauce."

Presser first made contact with the show when she attended an open call in Los Angeles in July. She estimates there were 500 people there. After rounds of interviews and judging, she was selected to be in the top 60, featured on last week's episode. ABC sent a film crew to her home in August to film her family and her house.

She's not sure what the future will hold for "The Taste" -- this first season will span eight episodes, she says -- and she's not sure if she'd be permitted to try again if it is picked up for additional seasons.

But she'd like to try.

"I would love to go back and cook something different for them," she says. "Anthony Bourdain said he wanted something a little bit more Brazilian for me. (He) told me I should have cooked a moqueca, and I have that recipe. I know how to make it. I have it on my website."

This is Presser's updated version of Shrimp and Yuca Brazilian-Style Gratin, which is also available on her food blog, Cynthia Presser: Cooking with a Twist. (Learn more about Presser's experience on "The Taste" in Wednesday's Dish column.)

Shrimp and Yuca Brazilian-Style Gratin

1 ½ pounds yuca root, peeled

¼ cup half and half

1 tablespoon butter, softened

Salt and fresh ground pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

½ onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

3 large tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons chili paste

¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

12 ounces large shrimp, cleaned and deveined

2 tablespoons bourbon

4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (or Catupity, if available)

½ cup farofa (chick here for recipe)

Place yuca in a large sauce pan and cover with water of water (if necessary cut the longest roots crosswise to fit into the pan). Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until roots are tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and remove the stems. Add half and half and butter. Using a potato masher, mash yuca until everything is blended. You can use a food processor for a smoother texture. Season with salt and set aside.

To a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onion and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and rosemary; cook until fragrant, an additional minute. Reduce heat to medium; add tomatoes and chili paste. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To a large skillet over high heat, add the remaining olive oil. When oil starts shimmering, add shrimp and sauté until the meat turns pink and start curling. Stir in bourbon. If alcohol flames keep stirring until flames die. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Fold shrimp and any liquids from the skillet into tomato sauce.

Turn on the oven broiler. Place the shrimp sauce on the bottom of 4 medium individual ovenproof deep dishes. Spread one tablespoon of mascarpone over shrimp sauce. Top with yuca purée and broil 3 to 4 minutes, until the top in golden brown. Carefully remove from the oven and sprinkle top with farofa. Serve immediately.

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