Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hearty Creme de Mandioquinha

So creme de mandioquinha is a Brazilian purée thick enough to stand alone, either as an appetizer or a meal. In case you don't already know, mandioquinha is a root vegetable akin to a potato. According to Wikipedia, it's technically called arracacha in the US, but good luck finding it in the states.

Anyway, I've eaten creme de mandioquinha in restaurants and decided to try it out myself. In my internet search, I found quite a few variations on the traditional recipe, which seems to include only mandioquinha, chicken or vegetable stock, onion, and garlic.

 the traditional stuff, as explained on this blog

So I decided to combine things from all of the variations I found, and I also made some changes of my own. I wanted something thicker and more complete as a meal. The apparent debate in the creme de mandiquinha world is whether or not to add créme de leite, or heavy cream, to the mix. I decided against it, but you might be for it. Isn't food fun?

Anyway, I added chopped chicken, carrots, and green beans to the recipe, and topped it with tomatoes and green onion. Mine came out like this:
I don't know how traditional it is anymore, but it was hearty enough to be a nice meal for us on this sunny but cold winter day.

Necessary ingredients (serves 2): 

*About 1kg of mandioquinha (it looks like this when you buy it at the store, and you should try to cut it into slices, the way you'd slice a carrot, kind of like this)

*1/2 of a big onion, or one whole small onion, chopped up into tiny bits (you can put more or less, depending on your love for onions)

*A few cloves of garlic, also chopped up into tiny bits (onion + garlic + food processor = success)

*A splash of olive oil

*Chicken and/or vegetable cubes to make stock (I actually used my new love, Knorr potinho de legumes, mixed with a bit of a chicken bullion cube)

Modifiable ingredients:

*1 small carrot, chopped small, like this (I used the food processor, but see the @@@ note below)

*A handful of green beans, chopped up the way you cut the carrot

*1 tomato, cut up pretty and with the seeds removed (to use as a topping)

*A bit of green onion for the topping

*1 large chicken breast, chopped into small chunks

I read other recipes that put broccoli, bacon, kale (couve), sausage, parsley, oregano...take this recipe and run with it! Vegetarians, you can skip the meat and still have a great dish.

@@@You might run into the problem that the thing you use to steam vegetables has holes that are too big for the size of your vegetables. You can either cut the vegetables bigger, or you can just boil them.

Instructions:

*Cut up the onion and garlic in the food processor (very small! Liquidy!) and fry them on low in some oil with the chicken.

*Heat your bullion cube(s) in water and a bit of olive oil to make a stock. To get the consistency of the creme de mandioquinha in my picture above, you need enough water to only slightly cover the mandioquinha when it's in the pot (see the first picture below).

*Peel the mandioquinha, then cut it up into equal sized pieces. Cook it in the stock, covered.

*Separately, steam the carrots and green beans, and/or any other vegetables you're using, also cut up very small.

Yes, three pots. See how much water you need? You can get away with a little bit more if you want something thinner. Also, the mandioquinha pot should be covered; I just took off the lid for the pic.


*Once the mandioquinha is very soft and starts turning into a mush with the stock, but before it has a chance to start sticking to the bottom of the pan, put the mandioquinha WITH THE STOCK in the blender.

*Blend blend blend. It's thick, so blending is not easy. Patience! Also, good luck cleaning that blender afterward.

*Add the mandioquinha back to its pot.  Try not to just eat it all now. If you're too tempted, you can scoop out what's stuck in the blender with your finger and eat that. Wait, what? I mean...


*Add in the chicken/onion/garlic mix, plus the steamed vegetables. Mix it all together. If necessary, heat it a little more.

*Chop up the tomato into very small, pretty pieces and take out the seeds. Make the green onion equally pretty.

*Top the crème de mandioquinha with the green onion and the tomato, and/or whatever else you're using.

One with tomato, and one without. Alexandre thought tomato to be a strange combination with the rest of it, but I liked it!

So what do you think? Delicious...or sacrilegious? What would you add, if anything?


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sweet & Sticky Baked Chicken Drumsticks

photo from here: http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com/2011/01/blog-post.html

This is a wonderfully easy and super delicious chicken recipe.  Recently food scientists have begun to tout the virtues of chicken dark meat, such as drumsticks, so cast aside your focus on lean breast meat (which can often be too dry) and give this scrumptious recipe a try.

The chicken is cooked in a very hot oven, so this is a perfect main course when you are looking to warm up your house a bit – as we are want to do these days. Temperatures have dropped into the 60s!
I found the recipe here, via TasteSpotting, although I have modified it a bit.  The photo as well is from The Comfort of Food blog.

Yields 12 chicken drumsticks

Ingredients:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

3 garlic cloves, minced

I small-ish onion, minced

12 chicken drumsticks (I used 20, smaller, “Drumets”)

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Directions:

Combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, onions and garlic cloves in a large resealable bag (a good one that will not pop open when you are handling it).

Clean up the drumsticks by rinsing well and snipping off any excess skin with kitchen shears. Add the chicken to the bag and seal. Toss and mush it around to mix well, coating all the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Top with a cooling rack. (I do not have said cooking rack so I just went commando.)

Remove the chicken from the bag, reserving the marinade, and arrange the drumsticks in the lined pan (on the cooling rack, if you have it). Bake until the skin is caramelized and dark in spots, about 30 minutes. I cooked it for nearly an hour. I wanted a little crisp.

Meanwhile, place the leftover marinade in a small saucepan, uncovered. Bring the marinade to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook over low heat until thick, about 15 minutes.

Use a pastry brush to brush the cooked marinade on the chicken. Return chicken to the oven for 10 more minutes (or longer, as desired). I think you really want some little burnt patches on the skin – to get that BBQ touch.  Don’t worry, it will not dry out.  If you like – brush just a bit more heated marinade on them before serving.

Since I did not use a cooking rack (for lack of one available) I then placed the chicken in a single layer on several layers of newsprint (you could use a brown paper bag) to drain some of the grease (or as Luiz likes to say: “The juice”).

Place the chicken on a serving platter and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and the chopped parsley.

Have napkins at the ready!

I served this with creamy mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and a salad.




Monday, May 23, 2011

Chicken, Palmito, and Catipury Pie (from Flavors of Brazil)

I am simply going to post a link to James's easy and delicious-looking recipe for chicken, palmito, and Catipury pie. It's a very Brazilian recipe, with ingredients that are harder to find in the US (sorry guys! Now you know how we feel!).

I'm totally going to try it this week!!

Click here for the recipe. Thanks to James and his much worthier cooking blog, Flavors of Brazil.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fajita-Style Pepper Stir Fry Thing

So I was trying to come up with some kind of vegetable concoction to go with the beef and rice I was making for lunch. This is what I came up with. I'm calling it a fajita=style pepper stir fry thing, for lack of a better name. :)

If you haven't noticed so far, 99% of the recipes I put up (and some of Jim's, too) are easily modifiable. Stuff can be taken out or added. I hope you can see them as templates or jumping-off points to get ideas of what to make. I also hope you'll share your opinions and changes in the comments so even more ideas can be available!

So here was the vegetable dish:
It tastes much better than it looks!

If you're vegetarian, you can just eat it with rice or noodles! Yum.



Ingredients:

*red bell pepper
*green bell pepper
*small dedo de moça peppers
*onion
*fresh garlic
*green onion
*carrot
*taco seasoning or paprika/cumin
*tomato


Instructions:

*Slice up your bell peppers the easy way (like in the picture to the right, which I did not take).

*Cut everything in slices to match the way the bell peppers are sliced, except for the tomato. Cut the tomato into wedges.

*Boil or steam the carrots separately to soften them.

*Fry everything covered on low heat, except for the tomato. Add water and oil to keep it from burning and to make a sort of sauce. Keeping it covered is important so the vegetables don't burn before they can soften!

*Once things start to soften, add in the carrots and the tomato.

*Keep the vegetables covered and stir occasionally until they're all soft.

Serve and eat! Mmmm!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Broccoli-and-Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken

So I got a little ambitious last weekend and decided to make a "fancy" dinner for us. I created a recipe of chicken stuffed with broccoli and mushrooms and topped with my white pasta sauce. This chicken recipe took a while, and it didn't come out as "pretty" as I would've liked it to, but it tasted great!

This recipe is just for the chicken and the stuffing. As you can see in the picture, we served it with some potatoes that Alexandre made, and then we had some wine.  I had stuffing left over, so the next day I basically made the same thing again, except I added boiled potatoes, eggplant, and squash to the baking dish before I put it in the oven so the meal wasn't so carb-y.

Ok, recipe:


Ingredients:

thick chicken breasts
broccoli
mushroom (preserved mushrooms are OK, and cheaper)
onion
garlic
2 Knorr Quick instant soup packets (mushroom and Parmesan flavor is best)
olive oil
oregano and whatever spices are around for the marinade




Instructions:

*Marinate the chicken for a couple of hours. It’s good with oregano, olive oil, caldo de frango, and garlic. I also put rosemary, but it kind of overpowered the rest of the food. The Knorr instant soup can be added to the marinade, too.

*Chop up the broccoli, mushrooms, and onions, preferably in a food processor. Set it aside for the filling.
 Do you like the little Rio bowl that came with the cereal box? :)

*Make the white sauce.

*Cut a pocket in the chicken to put the stuffing in. This very helpful video shows you how to cut the pocket.

*Put the stuffing and a little bit of the white sauce inside the pocket. If necessary, close the chicken with toothpicks.

*Put some margarine or cooking spray in a glass baking dish and add the chicken to it.

*Sprinkle the chicken with more of the Knorr instant soup powder.



*Put it in the oven at about 220C and cook the chicken. When it needs about 5 more minutes, add the rest of the white sauce to the top of the chicken.

White Sauce

Never buy white pasta sauce again! It's so much tastier and cheaper (and sometimes healthier) to make it from scratch.

This recipe is a combination of internet recipes, plus my own ideas after trying to make it so many times. I like it because it's the kind of recipe that you can keep tweaking as you're cooking until it's just right.



Ingredients:

*2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
*2 tablespoons of flour
*¼ tablespoon of salt
*About 1 cup of milk
*1 chicken bullion cube (caldo de frango)
*Some Parmesan cheese
*Any spices you want (pepper? oregano? I usually don't add salt because of the Parmesan and the bullion cube)


Instructions:

*Melt the butter in a small pot on very low heat. Patience!

*Add the flour and caldo de frango, and any spices you want. Mix the dry ingredients in quickly so they don't burn.

*Once the dry ingredients are mixed and hot, add the milk. Continue mixing. The sauce will thicken.

*Add more flour, butter, and milk until it has the consistency that you want.

*Add the Parmesan cheese and mix it until it melts. Keep mixing until the sauce has the consistency that you want.

Sometimes Alexandre and I add vegetables directly into the sauce, like carrots and green beans. You can also put this sauce on top of my stuffed chicken recipe. :)

What do you like to put in your white sauce?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken with Mango

Mmm... I found this yummy recipe for chicken with mango and coconut milk on the National Mango Board's website. They say to use Haden mangoes, but those are super expensive here. I bought the cheapest mangoes (I think they were Tommy) and they worked fine.
their picture, not mine, obviously

I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter, except for changing the mango and skipping the ginger.

You can read the written recipe by clicking here.

You can also watch a helpful video of the recipe being made:



I thought it was delicious, but Alexandre wasn't a fan. He doesn't really like foods with sweet and sour combinations, so if you don't either, then I guess this isn't the recipe for you!

As a side note, this same chef has a video in which he shows different ways to cut mangoes (which was how I found this recipe in the first place). If you are fruit-cutting-challenged the way I was, or if you just want to see some creative ways to cut mangoes, then click here to watch his video!


Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chili in Brazil

I'm not trying to steal Jim's carrot cake thunder, so I've actually postponed this post (har har) by a day to make sure everyone tries out his recipe! But this recipe here is for some yummy American chili!

I found a recipe for chili on the Dr. Oz website and I simplified it a little bit, mostly to make it Brazil-friendly.  Brazilians are big on their own version of the hot dog, which is deliciously unhealthy in its own right, but I've just really missed a traditional American chili dog, so decided to use the chili for that.

I served them with mangos and avocados, just because
we had them and they were ripe.
So this chili recipe isn't exactly traditional -- it's much healthier! But that's better. It came out great, Alexandre was bowled over, and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. My dear friend Kristin is a chili cookoff champion, but until I can try out her award-winning recipe, this one will have to do.

We used this chili to make chili dogs, but it can be served alone, or with rice, or with whatever else you want! It's hearty all by itself.

The ingredients can be modified (that's why there are so many chili recipes in existence), so be creative! I also tried to make a small amount, but even with the ingredients below, it made enough for about 8 hot dogs! Lunch and dinner!

I used:

The important stuff:
*about 250g of ground beef
*2-3 big spoonfulls of tomato sauce
*A chicken bullion cube or any kind of bullion cubes (even vegetable) to make some stock/broth 
*1 small tomato, chopped
*1 box of pre-cooked white beans (feijão branco) The original recipe calls for kidney/red beans, but those don't come pre-cooked in Brazil, and I was in a hurry. If you're in the US, you can likely find some kidney beans that are ready to heat and serve.


The modifiable stuff
*1/2 of an onion
*A spoonful or so of minced garlic (easier than fresh!): called alho puro or alho titurado in Portuguese
*1 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin slices
*1/2 of a green pepper, chopped
*some green onions (I put them inside and then on top when I was finished)
*A pinch or two of paprika
*Cheese for topping (I would've loved to use cheddar or queijo reino, but I couldn't bring myself to buy it. So I just used the mozzarella we had.)
*A spicy spice! The original recipe called for red pepper flakes, but I just chopped up some of the peppers from my Thai pepper plant. You can put what you want, or you can put nothing spicy.
*The original recipe also calls for cumin, but I didn't want the cumin to dominate the chili, so I didn't put any.



What to do

1. Chop up your onion and throw it in the pot with a generous amount of oil. Soften the onions on low heat.
2. Add in the garlic and the carrots to the pot, and mix mix mix.
3. Add in the ground beef and mix mix mix. Make sure your heat is higher at this point.

4. Meanwhile, whip up some stock/broth by boiling a little bit of water in another pot (about 1/2 a cup) and throwing in a bit of bullion cube. You'll add this to the chili last.

5. Add the rest of your ingredients to the chili pot: green onion, green pepper, tomato, tomato sauce, paprika, and red pepper. Mix mix mix! You might need to turn down your heat.

6. Add the now-boiled stock bit by bit so as not to make the chili too watery. You might not use it all. (I made too much, so I boiled the hot dogs in the extra stock.)

7. The original recipe says to add some salt and pepper at this point, but I found that my chili was salty enough with the stock and garlic. You can test yours and decide what you want.

The original recipe also says it takes 40 minutes to finish cooking, but mine took less than 10 minutes!

Without a barbecue, I boiled the hot dogs until they expanded, cut some slits in them, and then fried them for about a minute on a regular Teflon pan. Then, with the pan hot all hot-dog-y, I heated up the buns really quickly.

I topped it off with cheese and green onions! Yum!

This is the picture from the original recipe. I think mine was pretty close!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


The first time I had carrot cake in Brazil I was surprised to discover it typically has a creamy chocolate frosting.  It’s good.  The cake is not too sweet, and since frosting is often applied in the thinnest possible layer, the chocolate does not totally override the carrot flavor.  Give it a try if you have the chance.

On the other hand I’ve been missing my mother’s carrot cake with its carrots, crushed pineapple and chopped walnuts – not to mention a thick layer of cream cheese frosting.  Yum!
So I whipped one up for Luiz and my birthday party. (Our birthdays are one day apart.)
Just a word of warning: this recipe is not for the faint of heart. It took me about two hours to “whip it up” and the ingredients cost about R$45 - $50.


INGREDIENTS:
1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple (I gave some cut-up pineapple a few pulses in the food processor.)
4 cups grated carrots
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 Tbls. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
½ cup milk

For the Frosting–
2 cups firm cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup butter, at room temperature
¼ cup whole, firm yogurt (just in case)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
(optional) 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

[Note: I added the coconut to my mother’s recipe to give it a more familiar Brazilian flavor – people loved it. Also – this makes a lot of frosting, so if you plan to go easy – it is quite sweet – cut back a bit on each of the ingredients.]

METHOD:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

- Clean the pineapple, being careful to remove the spiny eyes and the coarse center core. Chop it finely. Drain well. Set aside. [You can use an 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained, if you can't get your hands on a good pineapple.]
- Peel the carrots (or just wash them thoroughly) and grate.  Set aside.
- Chop the walnuts, set aside.
- In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

- Cream together the softened butter and brown sugar.  Beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.  Then on low speed alternately add 1/3 the flour, half the milk, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the milk, the rest of the flour.  Beat just until mixed. Then add the carrots, drained pineapple and walnuts (save ¼ cup to sprinkle on the top of the cake). Beat slowly just until mixed.

- Fold into two greased and floured cake pans (or one large sheet pan). Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 40 – 45 minutes. The cake will darken, but don’t worry.

- Remove from oven and let it cool. After about 15 minutes flip the cake out of the pan(s) and allow to cool completely.
- For the frosting: Cream the softened butter in a mixing bowl, add the vanilla.  Mix in the cream cheese (cut into smaller chunks before adding).  Mix well, but do not over beat or whip (it will get thinner). Add about 1/3 of the powdered sugar and mix well (on low). Gradually add the rest of the sugar (scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally).  If it is too thick, add a small amount of the yogurt.  If it is too thin, add more sugar.  If you decide to add the coconut, add it now (save a little to toast and sprinkle on the top of the cake).

- If you used two round cake pans, place one layer, top side down, on the serving dish and apply a layer of frosting. Place the second layer, top side up, on top and frost completely.  If you used one large baking pan, slice the layer into two layers.  Carefully remove the top layer and frost, etc… like the other version.

- To finish it off, toast up the reserved coconut flakes (be careful, they burn quickly).  Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the top of the frosted cake.  Then sprinkle the finely chopped walnuts around the edge of the cake.

PHEW! That’s a lot of work, but let me assure you, it is worth it.  This cake tastes wonderful, with or without the coconut.  I have also make a hippy version in the past with a mix of whole wheat and white flours and substituting honey for some of the sugar.
As you can see in the picture, the frosting came out too soft and was sagging down the sides of the cake, fouling up the esthetics of the cake.  I think this was the result of the cream cheese (I used Philadelphia-brand) being too creamy in nature.  In the States it is more firm.  So look for the firmest cream cheese you can find.
Let me know how yours comes out.