Friday, August 27, 2010

Baked Chicken and Onion Casserole

I invented a sort of chicken casserole. It's delicious. It has lots of carbs. It's great for chilly days. It's easy to make.



My recipe serves 2 hungry people or 3 less-hungry people.

You will need: 
* 3 thin chicken breasts
* 2 little packets of Knorr Quick Sopa mix: we chose the cebola (onion) flavor (not pictured), but you can choose whatever you want, I suppose:

*2 big potatoes... this kind:

*1 onion
*Some chopped up green onion (optional)
*1 Knorr potinho de caldo



(In case you haven't noticed, I'm totally addicted to anything involving Knorr and chicken stock. These are new. I love them.)

*About 1 tablespoon of potato flakes (batata desidratada em flocos).... this can be optional if you don't have it, but it makes the recipe way better
*A tablespoon of butter or margarine

What to do: 

1. Wash and chop up the potato in big-ish pieces. Jamie Oliver says not to take the skin off of these potatoes, so I don't.

2. Add the potatoes to at least 600-700ml of water and boil them.

3. While the potatoes are boiling, use a napkin to spread a thin layer of butter around the dish that you're going to use to cook the casserole. The butter prevents everything from sticking to the pan and burning.

4. Peel and chop up your onion into small-ish pieces. The size doesn't really matter.

5. Throw the onion into the buttered dish and spread it around.

6. Once the water is boiled and the potatoes are softer (not soft enough to be mashed potatoes, just a bit softened.... should take about 10-15 minutes) use a strainer to take the potatoes out of the water while saving the water. Save the boiled water!

7.  Mix the potatoes in with the onion in the buttered casserole dish.

8. Measure out 500ml of the boiled water. (If you don't have potato flakes, add only 300ml.) Put the 500ml (or 300ml) of boiled water back on the stove to continue boiling. Add in 1 packet of the Knorr Quick soup and the 1 Knorr potinho de caldo. (If you have potato flakes and 500ml of water, add in the 1-2 tablespoons of potato flakes.) Mix this and continue to boil this to make your sauce.

9. Lay out the chicken breasts on top of the potatoes and onions on the casserole dish. The chicken breasts should be defrosted but uncooked.

10. Get the other packet of Knorr Quick soup and sprinkle the powder directly over the chicken, onions, and potatoes (focusing on the chicken).

11. Pour your boiled Knorr sauce over the everything in the casserole dish.

12. If you want, sprinkle some green onions on top of everything.

13. Stick your casserole dish in the oven at 230 degrees Celsius and bake it until the chicken is ready (for about 20-30 minutes).

14. Take it out, wait for it to cool a bit, and enjoy!!

Same photo as above:


It isn't necessarily the healthiest meal, but it sure is tasty.

Remember that if you don't have the Knorr spices and mixes, you can make your own sauce/broth to cover the chicken, potatoes and onions. This recipe can be easily modified.

I hope you like it as much as we did! We licked the pan a bit, because when you eat at home with your loved one(s), you can do that.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fun with Mandioquinha

Mandioquinha!  It starts like this:


And can end up like this:

(Don't mind the super old pot)

It has quite a few names. The lady at the farmers' market called it mandioquinha, but the grocery store labels it as aipim. (However, I've been told that aipim is the northeast word for what Paulistas call regular mandioca.) Like regular mandioca, it's also a root. Wikipedia has some nice information about it in English.

The lady at the farmers' market taught me and Alexandre a recipe. We modified it to our liking and now I'm sharing it with you.  This is just a simple way to serve mandioquinha as a side dish during a meal. It's fast and easy and sooo yummy (a lil' salty, a lil' sweet) and hard not to eat in large quantities.




Cooked Mandioquinha


You will need:

1. Mandioquina (obviously).... to serve 2 people, I buy about 3 good-sized pieces.
2. Water
3. Cooking oil
4. 1/2 a white onion
5. Some green onion (cebolinha)
6. Some garlic and whatever spices you want (I keep it simple and just put salt and pepper)

What to do:

1. Peel the mandioquinha. I use a peeler; it's easier than a knife.

2. Chop the mandioquinha in big-ish pieces. The lady at the farmers' market recommended cutting it haphazardly instead of in perfect straight pieces... not sure why, but it cooked really well when I did that, so I've just kept on doing it. I guess the point is, it doesn't really matter how you chop it.

3. Chop up the white onion into very very small pieces. You don't need much.

4. If you're a good Brazilian or Brazilian import, you've already got green onion chopped up in your fridge. So you can use some of that too.

5. Throw the mandioquinha, the white onion, and the green onion into a small pot.

6. Add in just enough water to make the water visible, but not to completely cover the vegetables.   Then add in a splash of cooking oil.

7. Add in the garlic, salts, and spices that you want. Less is more!

8. Cover everything and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Check it and stir it occasionally. You want the mandioquinha to turn bright yellow and get mushy, but not so soft that it sticks to the bottom of the pan and burns. It's a fine line!

When it's soft and smells good, it's ready! If you ended up putting too much water, you can drain it a bit.

That's it! Yum yum. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rice with Squash

I invented this recipe. I wanted to jazz up my rice a bit, so I added some squash (called "abobrinha nacional" in Portuguese), onion, and green onion. It's yummy!




You will need:
1. Rice
2. Abobrinha nacional...Wikipedia translates it as zucchini, but later calls it a squash....I'm confused! It's this one:



3. Some white onion
4. Some green onion (optional)
5. Caldo de legumes (a bit of a vegetable bullion cube)
What to do:

Make rice the way you make rice, but add in all the ingredients, chopped up.  I use my rice cooker for best results. I've never tried to make it on a stove. If anyone tries, let me know what you do!

It's so easy and delicious, and tastes better than plain white rice as leftovers.

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Caipirinha de Leite Condensado

Oh yes. You read that right. One of our friends taught me a new and improved version of the traditional caipirinha. It has condensed milk in it. That makes it fabulous. It's not disrespecting any Brazilian traditions because a Brazilian guy taught me, right?

It's easy. I think it's easier than a regular caipirinha, because you don't have to worry about cutting the limes in a fancy way to prevent sourness and acidity. Here's what you need for one caipirinha with condensed milk:

1. Some condensed milk.
2. 2 limes
3. "5 seconds of pinga" (my friend's exact instructions; let the pinga pour into the glass for 5 seconds)
4. A couple teaspoons of sugar (less than a regular caipirinha, because you've got the condensed milk)
5. Some ice and some cold water

-------------
Here's what you do:
1. Slice the lime like this
2. Put the lime in a cup and add the sugar and mash it up with a pilão (the pestle from the mortar and pestle)
3. Add in the pinga (cahaça if you're fancy) and as much leite condensado as you want (I put a tablespoon or two)
4. Shake shake shake shake
5. Add in some cold water and the ice so it's not so strong that you die
6. Shake shake shake shake


7. Drink very fast because the leite condensado hides how strong it is and then get unexpectedly drunk.

mmmmmmm! :D

Here's how it should look, kind of (like a milky caipirinha):
This picture is from the internet. Mine are not as pretty, and I leave the limes in the bottom of the plastic cup pretty glass while I drink it. I'm all about flavor over appearance.

I imagine this would be good with strawberries instead of limes, but I haven't tried it yet.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jim's Tex-Mex Recipes, Brazilian Style

Here's a both useful and entertaining post on cooking Mexican food in Brazil, courtesy of Jim from Qualidade da Vida:

Bringing Tex Mex cooking to Brazil (WAY south of the border!)

The other day I was on a bus zipping through Piritininga in Niterói and I caught a glimpse of a restaurant billing itself as Tex Mex. Wow – I never saw a Tex Mex restaurant in Brazil. At some point I will check it out. For now, I’ll make some of my own.

Here’s my recipe for Nachos, which includes corn chips, refried beans, ground beef, cheese, salsa and guacamole.


CORN CHIPS

I cannot find your basic corn chips, or corn tortillas which I could cut up and fry into fresh chips. What I can find are Doritos brand chips. We work within our local reality.



REFRIED BEANS

2 cups raw pinto beans (feijão da casa)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
3 cloves crushed garlic
½ cup minced green pepper
2 tsp. ground cumin (cominho)
¼ tsp. black pepper
4 Tbs. butter
A little olive oil

Cook the beans using your favorite method. After you wash them thoroughly and remove any stones that may have found their way into the bag, you can let them soak for a few hours and then boil them on the stove for 1 ½ - 2 hours (watch your water level!) – or you can just put them into a pressure cooker, cover well with water and cook with the little party hat hissing and jiggling for about 35 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the pressure reduce on its own. Either way, resist the temptation to add salt at this point. There will be plenty of time later to do that – in a more precise manner. You want the beans to be cooked completely (soft).

Drain the beans. Personally I do not rinse the beans further. Some folks insist this reduces the intestinal gas-inducing nature of them, but I prefer to keep some of the flavorful “bean liquor” that clings to the beans even after draining them. (Back in the States there was a product called “Beano” [http://www.beanogas.com/default.aspx] that you could add to eliminate the gas issue. If you know where to find that here in Brazil, by all means post a comment.)

Now mash the beans. I use a simple potato masher, but if you like really, really smooth refried beans you can put them in a food processor and go for it. Mash well. I generally add the butter at this point. The beans, as you mash them, will become rather thirsty. The butter keeps thing emulsified until I am done mashing.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions, garlic, cumin and ½ tsp. salt. Cook over low heat until onions are translucent. Add green pepper, cover and simmer 5 – 8 minutes. Add the mashed beans plus the rest of the salt. (I might actually slip in a little hot sauce at this point as well.) Mix well.

Here is where the “refried” part comes in. Simmer the beans over low heat. Add about ¼ cup water and stir well. The beans will absorb the liquid. You want to add small amounts of water, stirring well to totally incorporate the liquid. Let the beans simmer and absorb the water – while at the same time you are simmering off the excess liquid. Work this little dance for a half hour or so until you get the texture you like. Adjust seasoning. (I should add that my beans come from a personal vegetarian tradition, way back when. You may want to add some diced bacon back when you cook the onions.)



GROUND BEEF

Not everyone wants ground beef on their Nachos, but I have a husband who does not consider a meal without meat a real meal. So I add a layer of sautéed hamburger.

1 ½ lbs ground beef
¾ cup chopped onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground pepper
A little olive oil

Sauté all that up and set aside.

CHEESE

Given the lack of cheddar cheese I use a nice big hunk of Quiejo Prato, grated. Set aside.

DANIELLE'S NOTE: Queijo Reino is a great (albiet expensive) substitute for cheddar. When I make Mexican food, I mix queijo reino with mozzarella.

SALSA

Here is where your imagination can run wild. You can make a simple tomato-centric salsa or you can branch out into the world of mango or pineapple salsas. Google them. Follow your bliss.

For a basic, traditional fresh salsa check out this tried and true, simple, tasty recipe. Note: this is a warm puréed salsa, not a chunky cold salsa much like a “vinaigrette” served here in Brazil. We’re talking old school.

2 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced in half
8 – 10 peeled garlic cloves
4 tomatoes, stems removed, cut in half
1 green pepper, cored, sliced in half lengthwise
Hot peppers (whatever you can find) a few or a lot depending on your taste, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed
½ cup shopped cilantro
1 lime
Salt and pepper
A little olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking pan and place everything but the cilantro, salt and pepper, face down, on the pan. Bake for (oh, I don’t know) 40 minutes or so, less if your vegetables are cut smaller. Cook until everything is pretty pooped, soft and roasted. If your hot chili peppers are small, remove them sooner than the other ingredients during this stage but be sure they get roasted. Everything should smell great.

Place everything into a food processor and pulse until you get the texture you are after. Do not over-purée. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro to taste. Drizzle with some fresh lime juice.

GUACAMOLE

Here is a basic guacamole recipe which can be modified to make it chunkier or smoother, depending on your taste.

2 ripe medium-large avocadoes, mashed
Juice of two small limes
1 small, finely chopped red onion
2 – 3 cloves crushed garlic
1 diced red or yellow pepper (I think green peppers are too bitter for this purpose, but they are usable.)
1 medium tomato, seeded, diced
½ tsp. salt (more to taste)
Chili powder and black pepper to taste (or use molha da pimenta)

Mix it all together and correct seasoning to your taste. Chill before serving.

To add some chunky heartiness consider adding a chopped hard-cooked egg, a small, peeled, chopped, seeded cucumber, or some chopped green olives.

To smooth it out a bit add some quality mayonnaise or coalhada, or yogurt.

NACHOS

To assemble your Nachos use an oven-safe serving platter. Arrange a thick layer of corn chips on the platter. Top them with your heated, refried beans. Then spread some heated ground beef mixture over the beans. Top this with a healthy layer of grated cheese. Now place just a little salsa atop the cheese. You will have an opportunity to add more salsa later.

Put the now mounded platter into a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes or so to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and spread your fabulous guacamole over the whole thing.

Serve hot with the remaining salsa at hand, and hopefully with more guacamole and chips handy as well.

Don’t forget the cold beer!

P.S. My experience cooking Nachos and all the various parts therein has been informed by the Moosewood Cookbook, which I first discovered 30 years ago while living in a vegetarian housing cooperative. It’s still one of my favorite wedding presents.