This recipe for chicken in a pine-nut laced béchamel sauce comes from Aline Mutz Guerra, who is chef at the highly-regarded Estrela da Terra restaurant in Curitiba, the capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná. Curitiba is widely considered one of the most livable cities in Brazil, with a strong economy, good transportation and infrastructure and a highly-educated population. In the past Curitiba welcomed immigrant communities from many European countries, plus Japan, but today most of the population growth comes from Brazilians migrating to Curitiba from other areas in the country. It is estimated that at least half of the current population was not born in Curitiba.
Carioca (a person from Rio de Janeiro) who, when she moved to Curitiba, barely knew how to cook. Largely self-taught, she began by cooking for family and friends, making use of local traditional recipes and ingredients. Eventually she opened her own restaurant and in 2009 was appointed chef at Estrela da Terra, which has been open for 16 years and which is housed in a old house which has been awarded heritage status by the city of Curitiba.
RECIPE - Golden Chicken with Pine Nuts (Frango Dourado com Pinhão)
For the béchamel
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup Philadelphia-style cream cheese
2 cups whole milk
For the chicken
2 entire chicken breasts, boneless, with with skin attached
salt to taste
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups pine nuts, toasted in dry frying pan until lightly browned
1/2 lb (200 gr) grated mozzarella cheese
Make the béchamel. Dilute the corn start in cold water. Bring the milk just to the boiling point over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Add the diluted corn starch and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Add the cream cheese, stir to dissolve, then remove the sauce from heat and reserve.
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Put the chicken breasts, skin side up, in an ovenproof casserole dish. place in preheated oven, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the skin is golden. Remove the dish from the oven, let the chicken cool slightly, then remove the skin and cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Reduce oven temperature to 350F (180C)
In a ovenproof serving dish mix the chicken, the corn and peas, the pine nuts and the béchamel. Salt to taste. Sprinkle the top with grated mozzarella. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until the top is golden and crusty.