Monday, January 17, 2011

RECIPE - Fish Pirão (Pirão de Peixe)

This traditional recipe from the coastal state of Espírito Santo is pirão at its most basic. A flavorful broth made using fish heads combined with manioc flour to thicken it and give it the proper consistency, and you've got a dish that goes back to prehistoric times. These kinds of pirão were the basic dietary item of the native indigenous populations of Brazil and today accompany fish stews everywhere in the country. Every family has its own recipe, and everyone thinks that their mother is the only person in the world capable of making a proper pirão, but as is the case with turkey stuffings, almost every pirão is delicious.

Manioc flour is available in Brazilian and Latin American markets in North America and Europe. Just look for farinha de mandioca or even just plain farinha written on the package. Farinha comes in white and yellow varieties and either is suitable for making pirão.
RECIPE - Fish Pirão (Pirão de Peixe)
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. extravirgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. ground annatto (can substitute sweet red paprika)
2 crushed cloves garlic
3 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 fish head, about 1 lb (400 gr) (or two smaller heads), well washed
2 cups hot water
salt to taste
1 1/2 cup manioc flour (farinha)
Heat the olive oil in a deep pan. Add the annatto and the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Then add the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, fish head(s) and the hot water. Salt to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool completely. Remove the fish heads, then separate the meat from the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the broth, discarding the bones.

Reheat the broth to the simmering point (not boiling) then sprinkle the surface with manioc flour, stirring constantly and slowly adding more manioc. Stir vigorously so that lumps do not form. Reduce the heat to low and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the pirão has thickened. Serve immediately as a side dish for any fish or seafood dish.

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

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