Thursday, March 10, 2011

RECIPE - Cuzcuz Paulista

Of all the regional forms and varieties of the Brazilian dish cuzcuz, cuzcuz Paulista is the most elaborate and also the most well-known. Adapting a simple dish of moistened grains, the cooks of the 19th century Brazilian aristocracy tarted up the presentation and pumped up the flavor with expensive and exotic ingredients like canned sardines (!), olives, fresh shrimp, and canned peas (!!).

Today the dish remains popular and still is considered appropriate as the centerpiece of a grand buffet table, or at a family feast. It has a huge number of ingredients and takes some time to prepare, but it really isn't all that difficult and it handily serves a crowd. Serve it with a light first course, a simple salad and a rich dessert - all you need for a grand dinner or formal luncheon.
RECIPE - Cuzcuz Paulista
Serves 16

2 cups yellow cornmeal (polenta)
1 cup manioc flour
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cubed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cubed
1 can palm hearts, chopped
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 lb. headless, peeled and deveined shrimp
2 cups chicken broth
1 small package frozen peas (retain 1/2 cup for decoration)
1/2 cup chopped green olives
1 tsp. annatto powder (sweet paprika can be substitutes
1/2 tsp. powdered bay leaf
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion, green part only
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced (reserve 8 slices for decoration)
salt and pepper to taste

for the decoration:
10 large shrimp, headless, peeled and deveined, with tails left on
1 5-inch piece palm heart
1 tin sardines in olive oil
1/2 cup frozen peas (see above)
8 slices hard-cooked egg (see above)
Mix the corn and manioc flours in a large mixing bowl. Reserve.

Heat a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and when it's hot, add the garlic and onion and fry until the onion is transparent but not browned. Add the bell peppers, the palm heart, the tomato sauce, the shrimps and the 2 cups of chicken broth.

Coarsely chop the hard-cooked egg slices that won't be used for decoration, Stir them into the mixture along with the chopped olive, the annatto or paprika, the bay leaf, the parsley and green onion, and salt and pepper to taste.

When everything is mixed and hot, begin to add the flour mixture, bit by bit, stirring constantly. Continue to add flour until it has a smooth, soft and moist consistency. Do not add too much flour, which will make the cuzcuz overly dry.

Generously grease the entire inside of a tube-shaped 3-quart cake pan with olive oil, wiping away excess. Using the decorative ingredients, carefully place them symmetrically along the bottom and sides of the pan. (See photo)

Using a large spoon, carefully add the cuzcuz mixture to the cake pan, making sure not to move the decorations. Fill to within 2 inches of rim, then with the back of the spoon, lightly press the mixture and smooth out the surface. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Carefully unmold the cuzcuz onto a large plate, and serve immediately.

Recipe translated and adapted from Viagem Gastronômica através do Brasil by Caloca Fernandes.

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