Monday, February 21, 2011

RECIPE - Açorda

This utterly simple and wonderfully delectable dish is one of many that made its way relatively unchanged from Portugal to Brazil. In its home country it is associated with the mountainous Alentejo region which stretches southward from Lisbon in the direction of the Algarve. Here in Brazil, it's most well known in the state of Rio de Janeiro, where the Portuguese culinary influence remains strong, and in the mountainous interior state of Minas Gerais, whose climate of warm days and cold nights closely mirrors that of the Alentejo.

Açorda is true comfort food, warming and simple. Try it on a rainy evening, or if you're in a region where there are nights of snow, try it then. It needs be served only with a green salad and a simple dessert. If you want to make the meal authentically Portuguese/Brazilian, that dessert could be pudim (flan or creme caramel).

There are many variations of açorda - some with seafood, some with salt cod, some with meat. But this is the basic and most likely the original version.
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RECIPE - Açorda 
Serves 4

1 round loaf European-style peasant bread (Italian, Portuguese, etc.) - one or two days old is best
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup loosely-packed chopped cilantro
salt to taste
extravirgin olive oil to taste
boiling water
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
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Cut a slice off the top of the bread, and pull out the soft bread from inside in chunks, leaving a hollow shell. Put the garlic cloves in a mortar, add a bit of salt, and using a pestle make a paste. (Alternatively, use a small bowl and wooden spoon).

In a large heavy frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat, then add the garlic paste and cook just until it begins to brown. Do not let overcook. Add the bread crumbs, and cook for a minute or so, mixing so that all the bread is coated with oil.

Stir in half of the cilantro, and then begin to add the boiling water, about a half cup at a time. Stir and mix continuously, breaking up the bread as you go. Continue adding water in small quantities until the bread has broken down and forms a pap, or very loose paste. (See photo above for correct consistency). Be careful not to add to much water.

Add salt to taste, then add the beaten eggs, mixing and stirring thoroughly until the eggs are totally absorbed and cooked through. Remove from heat, then stir in the remaining cilanto.

Return the cooked açorda to the shell from the loaf of bread and serve immediately.

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