Perhaps known more its ability to produce soccer players and non-stop partying at Carinval in Rio, Brazil is nevertheless an incredible gustatory destination. Inspired by European influences, slave cultures, and indiginous peoples, the flavors of Brazilian cooking very widely depending where you are in the country but are sure to amaze even the most travelled of tongues.
Which one of this week’s entries is going to start a Carnival of it’s own in your mouth: the Moqueca e Pão de Queijo or the Acarajés Modernos.
Moqueca e Pão de Queijo
Brazilian cuisine, like Brazil itself, varies greatly by region. the food of brazil spans a unique mix of cultures, particularly great influence from the portuguese and African cuisine as a result of the slave trade through out brazil especially in the coastal states such as Bahia.
A popular typical snack, Pão de queijo or ‘cheese bread’ in Portuguese, will really get your appetite started! this Brazilian cheese bread is slightly crisp and browned on the outside and the inside is airy and chewy. One bite and you’ll be addicted! Bet you cant eat just one
And for the main course, Moqueca! A flavorful Brazilian seafood stew traditionally made with fish, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro. In the northern state of Bahia, they make moqueca baiana, influenced by african cuisine. in addition to the traditional ingredients, dendê oil (palm oil), coconut milk, shrimp, and crab are added and served over rice and a few pieces of Pão de queijo to soak up the flavorful soup!
Isto é uma receita ótima para matar a fome! Translated to ‘this is a great recipe to KILL hunger!’
Pão de Queijo
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
- 2/3 cup grated cheese, your preference, though a sharp cheese works best
- 1 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a mini-muffin tin.
- Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth. You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender so that everything gets blended well. This can be done ahead of time and store the batter in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until all puffy and just lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes.
- Eat while warm or save to reheat later.
- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of fillets of firm white fish such as halibut or cod, cut into large portions
- 1/2 lb large shrimp
- 1/2 lb lump crab meat
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 4 Tbsp lime juice
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil (substitution for dendê oil)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup green onion greens, chopped
- 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, chopped
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/2 large bunch of cilantro, chopped with some set aside for garnish
- 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
- Place fish and shrimp in a bowl, add half of the minced garlic and lime juice so that the pieces are well coated. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Keep chilled while preparing the rest of the soup.
- In a large covered pan, coat the bottom with about 2 Tbsp of olive oil and heat on medium heat.
- Add the chopped onion and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper, remaining garlic, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes longer, until the bell pepper begins to soften. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and onion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the chopped cilantro.
- Use a large spoon to remove about half of the vegetables (you’ll put them right back in). Spread the remaining vegetables over the bottom of the pan to create a bed for the fish. Arrange the fish pieces on the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add back the previously removed vegetables, covering the fish. Pour coconut milk over the fish and vegetables.
- Bring soup to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may need to add more salt (likely), lime or lemon juice, paprika, pepper, or chili flakes to get the soup to the desired seasoning for your taste. Add shrimp and lump crab meat and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes to cook shrimp and warm the crab
- Garnish with cilantro and soem fresh red bell peppers. Serve with rice and some pão de queijo.
From the resurgence of the old-school American food truck to the traditional street food-themed restaurants popping up across the country – eating from the street is all the rage these days. If you ever happen to find yourself in northern Brazil, you’ll have the opportunity to partake in the craze by chomping into a traditional acarajé – a black eyed pea and dried shrimp fritter deep fried in palm oil – split open and stuffed with any number of different fillings. The dubious health benefits of deep frying in palm oil notwithstanding, I’ve taken the concept of the traditional acarajé and turned it in into an American-kitchen-friendly dish without losing the traditional flavors and textures of the South American original. This week’s recipe features a blini-like acarajé prepared two ways – a traditional application topped with shrimp and caramelized onions and an original method using tomatillo and Caipirinha (the national cocktail of Brazil) marinated chicken.
Cooking notes: when using dried beans, a 24 hour soak in water will allow them to adequately hydrate and soften for use. You can always use canned black eyed peas for this recipe, but they will lack the texture of their dried counterparts.
- 1 pound dried black eyed pea (soaked for 24 hours)
- 1 medium onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- Add all components to the work bowl of your food processor. Unless you own an industrial sized one, you’ll probably have to do this in two installments.
- Pulse on high in food processor until combined and almost tapenade like in texture. The mixture should stick together and not appear to be grainy. This can take anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds. Be sure to use a rubber spatula to wipe down the sides between pulses.
- Add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dose your batter into skillet using an ice cream scoop and shape the fritters to about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick (I used a 3 inch ring mold).
- Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
Traditional Shrimp Topping
- 1/2 pound of uncooked shrimp (shells and vein removed), quartered
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil to a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion with cumin until caramelized – about 10-15 minutes.
- Add shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes until pink in color.
Caipirinha-Brined Chicken Topping
- juice of two limes
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup of salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup of mint
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup of white rum
- 5-6 tomatillos, husk removed, chopped
- Add first four ingredients to small pot and heat just enough to allow sugar and salt to dissolve. Add mint and allow to cool. Add to freezer bag with chicken and allow to brine overnight in refrigerator.
- Remove chicken from brine and dry with paper towels. Slice across the grain into quarter inch strips.
- Add vegetable oil to medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat and saute chicken until browned and almost cooked through, 4-5 minutes.
- Add tomatillos and saute for another minute until just warmed through.
- Add rum and scrape up any cooked brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 minutes until most of rum is evaporated.
- Serve on top of acarajés and garnish with fresh mint.