Prazeres da Mesa Ao Vivo gastronomic trade-show and exposition, is a creation of European-Brazilian chef Bernard Twardy, one of Fortaleza's most successful and highly-regarded chefs. Sr. Twardy was born in Germany and grew up in France, where he was classically trained as a chef. Many of Brazil's most famous chefs share a European background with Twardy. At some point in their lives these European chefs arrived in Brazil as tourists or immigrants, and for any number of reasons decided to make Brazil their home. As a unofficial group, they combine classical European techniques and dishes with Brazilian ingredients, techniques and dishes to create food that in many ways marries the best of the Old and the New Worlds. I hesitate to call it fusion cuisine, but it is a re-imagining of European gastronomy in a specifically Brazilian context.
Sr. Twardy's recipe for Risi Pisi de Caranguejo is an excellent example of this bi-continental style of cooking. His opening point of reference is the classic Venetian dish risi e bisi (rice and peas) - a risotto-style combination of Arborio rice and fresh green peas. Substituting orzo pasta for the rice and adding locally-caught crab, Brazilians herbs and spices, and livening the dish with coconut milk, he has created something that certainly is not Venetian, but not entirely Brazilian either. Whatever else it is, though, it's absolutely delicious.
RECIPE - Risi e Bisi of Crab (Risi Pisi de Caranguejo)
1 pound picked-over fresh or thawed crab meat
2 cups (500 ml) coconut milk
3 cups (750 ml) cooked orzo pasta, al dente, cooled to room temperature
2 cups (500 ml) ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup (250 ml) mixed green and yellow bell peppers, finely diced
1/2 cup (250 ml) strongly-brewed lemon balm infusion
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup (250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp habanero chile, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
crab claws to decorate
salt to taste
Heat half the olive oil in a large sauté pan, add half the garlic and all of the onion, and sweat them for a few minutes. Add the chopped bell peppers and habanero chile and continue to cook the mixture for about three minutes, or until the peppers have softened. Add the tomatoes, the the coconut milk and the lemon balm infusion and cook for about five more minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened, but not dissolved. Remove from heat and reserve.
In a medium saucepan heat the remaining olive oil, then add the remaining garlic. Cook until the garlic is softened, then add the crab meat and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat. Add the reserved tomato mixture, and let stand at room temperature for at least one hour, covered. Combine the crab/tomato mixture with the orzo pasta, and correct seasoning for salt. Mound the mixture into a decorative serving bowl, decorate with a sprinkling of finely chopped cilantro plus crab claws if desired and serve.
Recipe translated and adapted from Prazeres da Mesa magazine - Oct. 2010