Flavors of Brazil's Rice Week, we thought we'd finish with this "Top Hat" recipe from noted Brazilian chef Madalena Albuquerque who works out of Recife's Just Madá restaurant. So far these week we've concentrated on traditional Brazilian recipes featuring rice, but it's not just in such recipes that one finds rice featured - contemporary re-imaginings and new creations coming from Brazilian chefs also highlight the importance of rice in Brazil's diet.
This recipe takes as its starting point a traditional Brazilian dessert called cartola (the word means top hat) whose main ingredients are plantain bananas, cheese and cinnamon. In this recipe these ingredients are mixed with rice. Thes rice is then plated with a cilantro confit and topped with crispy slivers of Parma cheese to create a startlingly non-dessert, decidedly savory, cartola.
RECIPE - Top-hat Rice with Curly Parma Ham (Arroz de Cartola com Pixaim de Parma)
For the curly ham
1/2 lb (200 grams) thinly sliced Parma ham, cut into chiffonade
For the cilantro confit
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves only
1 small bunch green onion, green part only
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste
For the broth
2 cups (1 liter) water
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon, about 1 in (2 cm) long
For the rice
1 cup (200 gr) white long-grain rice
6 oz mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup cachaça
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 plaintain, not overly ripe, cut into small cubes
powdered cinnamon to taste
To prepare the ham:
Heat an oven to 350F (180C). Place the shredded ham on a cookie sheet, separating the shreds as much as possible and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the ham is browned, crispy and curly. Let cool on cookie sheet and reserve
To prepare the cilantro confit:
Mix all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, using as much olive oil as desired to moisten the confit. Reserve.
To prepare the rice:
First, in a saucepan or stockpot combine the ingredients for the broth, bring quickly to the boil, reduce heat and reserve, keeping at the simmering point. In another saucepan, heat the oil, then add the chopped onion and garlic and saute briefly or until the onion is transparent but not browned. Stir in the rice and continue to saute until the rice becomes mostly transparent. Add the cachaça and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the cachaça evaporates. Add half of the broth, stir to mix completely and bring to the boil. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat, until all the broth is absorbed, then add more broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, making sure that the broth is absorbed before adding more. When most of the broth has been added, check for doneness of the rice - add more broth only if necessary. Stir in the cubes of cheese and plaintain and the cinnamon stick. Remove from heat, cover the pan and let stand for about 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and reserve.
In each of four deep soup plates, spread one quarter of the confit on the bottom, then mound a quarter of the rice in the centre of the plate. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon if desired, then top with the crispy ham. Serve immediately.
Recipe translated and adapted from Prazeres da Mesa magazine.