Friday, September 30, 2011

RECIPE - Pará-style Chibé, Couscous and Tabouleh (Cuzcuz, Chibé e Tabule Paraense)

A decidedly avant-garde riff on indigenous staples, this dish from Brazil's top chef Alex Atala combines an indigenous Amazonian manioc paste, shrimp and squid to create a theme-and-variation fantasy on a plate.

The Brazilian portion of this dish is an updated rendition of a staple food of many of the the native tribes that inhabit the farthest reaches of the Amazonian rain forest in northern Brazil. It's called chibé and it's made from a seasoned mixture of manioc flour and water - preferably running river water. In this dish Atala uses chibé as a springboard to similar preparations of grains or flours and water in other culinary traditions such as couscous from the Maghreb and Levantine tabouleh, both made from semolina wheat. Although this recipe calls for no semolina at all, its name is a creative tip-of-the-hat to similar cooking traditions from the other side of the Atlantic. Adding shrimp, squid and decorative sprouts and flowers, the  final dish is a definitely-21st-century creation based on some of the most ancient dishes known.

This dish is featured at Atala's São Paulo restaurant D.O.M., recently honored as the 7th best restaurant in the world and the recipe is translated and adapted from Brazilian food and wine magazine Prazeres da Mesa.
RECIPE - Pará-style Chibé, Couscous and Tabouleh (Cuzcuz, Chibé e Tabule Paraense)
serves 4

12 oz (300 gr) medium shrimp, peeled but with tails left on
4 oz (100 gr) manioc flour (farinha)
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 Tbso finely chopped cilantro
2 cups (500 ml) ice water
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp fresh chili pepper (jalapeno, serrano, etc.) seeded and finely minced
12 cups crushed ice
1 lb (500 gr) very small squid, cleaned, tubes and tentacles separated
3 tsp coarse sea salt
4 quarts (4 liters) water
Put the ice water into a medium mixing bowl. In a medium saucepan bring salted water to the boil.  Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute, or until the shrimp is just barely opaque and pink. Remove the shrimp from the boiling water and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking process. As soon as they are cool, drain and reserve them in the refrigerator.

In a large mixing bowl combine the water, the onion, the lime juice, the cilantro, and the minced hot pepper. Mix well then  add the manioc flour and mix again. Let stand until the manioc flour as absorbed as much water as possible. Reserve in the refrigerator.

In a two quart container with tight-fitting lid (such as a RubberMaid or Tupperware dish), add 1 tsp sea salt, 3 cups of crushed ice, one liter of water and the squid. Coverly securely and shake for 5 minutes, as if it were a cocktail in a shaker. Open the container, remove the squid and discard the remainder of the ingredients. In the same container, repeat the process twice more, adding the same quantities of salt, ice and water as the first time and returning the squid to the container. Finally, repeat one more time, using just squid, ice and water. Reserve the squid in the ice water.

To plate the dish place one quarter of the manioc flour mixture in the center of a deep plate. Top with one quarter of the shrimps, then add one quarter of the iced squid. Decorate with chives, cilantro sprouts and edible flours and serve immediately while still cold.

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