Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Leftovers - Espírito Santo-style

This post should by all rights have been published yesterday, at least if the majority of Flavors of Brazil's readers were in Brazil. The post is about day-after Christmas leftovers and what to do with them, and in Brazil the Christmas feast is eaten late in the evening on December 24th, not on December 25th. Consequently, it's on the 25th that Brazilian family cooks have to deal with leftovers.

However, most of our readers come from English-speaking countries, and in the majority of those countries, the Christmas feast comes to the table sometime on December 25th, and the leftover situation comes to the forefront only on the 26th. (We're not even going to get into the whole business of when Australia and New Zealand eat leftovers, there on the other side of the International Dateline.) In honor of those readers we've decided to use our post for today, call it Boxing Day if you want, to give our readers a bit of a lesson on what cooks in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo often do, and to pass on the recipe if you want to duplicate their efforts at home.

The fertile and mountainous state of Espírito Santo is located on the southeast coast of Brazil, occupying the stretch of coast north of Rio de Janeiro state and south of Bahia. It's a state that has a long agricultural tradition and for centuries European immigrants who were farmers in the Old World have chosen to continue that path in Espírito Santo when they arrived in the New. Espírito Santo has a large number of citizens who can trace their ancestry back to Italy, and many of them are farmers or come from farming backgrounds. Espírito Santo has a large dairy industry and many of Brazil's Italian-style cheese come from that state.

As always, immigrants to Espírito Santo brought their food traditions with them, and the cuisine of the interior of the state, in particular, is heavily influenced by Italian foodways. Capixabas (the demonym for people who live in Espírito Santo) are like most Brazilians and usually eat turkey for Christmas, which isn't really an Italian tradition. But when the 26th rolls around, local cooks make sometime typically Italian out of the turkey they have on hand. They make a rich ragu with turkey and mushrooms and serve it with polenta. What could be more Italian than that?

In our next post, we'll provide the recipe for this delicious way to deal with excess turkey.