Friday, July 2, 2010

RECIPE - Rice with Cuxá (Arroz de Cuxá)

Here is another recipe from the Brazilian state of Maranhão. It features the characteristic flavor of the acidic green vinagreira, in rice dish that approaches the complexity of a risotto.

Rice is one of the most important components of the cuisine of Maranhão and was brought there by Portuguese colonists who had first learned of the grain in Asia. Rice was cultivated in Maranhão as far back as 1745 and it was primarily rice from Maranhão that fed those colonies that became Brazil. In colonial times Maranhão rice was also exported to Europe. The predominance of rice cultivation in Maranhão led to the creation there of a number of dishes based on rice, combining the grain with bacon, carne de sol, crab, shrimp or vinagreira. Rice combined with vinagreira eventually came to be called rice with cuxá (arroz de cuxá in Portuguese.)

Rice with cuxá is typically served as a side dish to accompany seafood main courses such as crab or shrimp pie, or fried fish or shrimp. Local cooks say that it takes a long time to learn how to properly prepare rice with cuxá because when the proportion of rice to vinagreira is correct, the dish becomes inedible. If too much vinagreira is added the dish becomes bitter and overly acidic. If not enough, the dish remains bland and flavorless. Only someone who has been making rice with cuxá all their life knows exactly how much to throw in the pot.
RECIPE - Rice with Cuxá (Arroz de Cuxá)
Serves 4

1 lb (500 gr) dried shrimp (available in Asian markets)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup toasted white sesame seeds
1 1/2 cup cooked vinagreira leaves, chopped
4 cups water
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup manioc flour
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
salt to taste
Chopped green onion to garnish
1 red chile pepper to garnish
Wash the shrimp in a sieve under cold running water. Reserve. Combine the onion and sesame seeds in a food processor and process until a homogenous paste is formed. Reserve. Bring the 4 cups water to a boil and add several handfuls of vinagreira leaves. Boil only until the leaves become limp and lose their bright color. Drain and immediately refresh the leaves in cold water. Drain again. Coarsely chop the leaves, and measure 1 1/2 cups.

Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan and add the garlic and the onion/sesame paste. Cook until the mixture is lightly browned, then add the 1 1/2 cup water and the manioc flour. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 8 minutes. Add the shrimp and the chopped vinagreira and stir to combine. Finally add in the cooked rice, season to taste with salt, and continue to stir and cook until the rice is heated through.

Remove from heat, put onto a serving platter or in a bowl, garnish with the green onion and chile pepper then serve immediately.

Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brasileira by Abril Editora.

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