Friday, November 23, 2012

RECIPE - Grilled Lobster (Lagosta Grelhado na Casca)

As with many other foods, lobster cooked and served simply is often the best - better than when hidden in a thick cream sauce or a spicy tomato sauce. In a simple presentation, the sweet and succulent flavor of the lobster shines through, something that doesn't happen when this subtle meat is combined with strongly-flavored sauces.

For most North Americans and Europeans, especially those who are dealing with a true lobster (click here to read more about the lobster family), lobster cooked simply means boiled lobster. However, in Brazil it's not common at all to see boiled lobster on restaurant menus, or at the family table. In Brazil, lobster cooked simply means grilled lobster. Grilling a lobster in the shell is an excellent way to showcase the flavor of the crustacean. Unlike boiled lobster, which adds no flavor at all to the meat, grilled lobster adds the note of smokiness that is characteristic of grilled foods. This hint of smokiness doesn't mask the flavor of the lobster, just makes it a bit more complex. And as far as Brazilians are concerned, this also makes it even more delicious.

Here's a recipe from the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará, one of the principal sources of Brazilian lobster. It works best with spiny lobster (the tropical one), but is also suitable for true lobsters as well.
RECIPE - Grilled Lobster (Lagosta Grelhado na Casca)
Serves 4

4 whole spiny lobsters (thawed if frozen)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste
fresh lime wedges
Cut each lobster into two pieces, cutting on the longitudinal axis from head to tail. This is best done with strong kitchen scissors. Do not remove the meat from the shell. Sprinkle the white wine and a bit of salt over the cut side of each piece and reserve while the grill heats to medium heat.

Using a grill brush, brush the olive oil on the grill to prevent sticking.  Place the lobster tails on the grill, meat side down and grill for a few minutes, or until the meat is opaque and the surface has just begun to brown. Turn the tails over, and grill with the shell side down until the shells have turned bright red. Remove from the grill.

Serve immediately, with a green salad and boiled potatoes or white rice. Accompany with plenty of fresh lime wedges for squeezing over the lobster.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SEAFOOD OF BRAZIL - Spiny Lobster (Lagosta)

Brazilians love lobster - who doesn't? But in the relationship between Brazilians and the tasty crustaceans, there's a problem: too much love. Lobster stocks are threated by overfishing, and although regulations to protect the fishery are in place, they are often flouted. Flavors of Brazil will feature this issue in upcoming posts, but first we thought it would be good to focus on exactly what is (and what isn't) a Brazilian lobster.

Unlike the true lobster (zoological family Nephropidae), which dwells in icy waters, Brazilian lobsters are warm-water inhabitants and belong to a separate family the Palinuridae. The Palinuridae are commonly known as spiny lobsters, and can be found in warm-waters seas around the world - places like the Caribbean, South Africa, Australia and, of course, Brazil.

Besides their habitat, spiny lobsters are distinguished from true lobsters by the lack of claws on their front legs and by the presence of of two long, thick and spiny antennae. They are an ancient group of animals, and there are spiny lobster fossils that are more than 110 million years old which don't differ significantly from current species.

Spiny lobsters prefer to live in crevices in rocks and coral reefs, darting out of their shelter to eat, and then retreating to safety. This habitat has caused them to also be called rock lobsters (thanks, B52s!). Recently scientists have discovered that spiny lobsters have the ability to navigate via the earth's magnetic field - i.e. they carry their own internalized compass when they move about.

Brazil is a significant producer of spiny lobster, ranking third in the world in production, coming behind the world's largest producer, the USA, and Australia. It is this important commercial fishery that is threatening Brazil's lobster population. We'll provide more details on this issue in our next post.

Monday, November 19, 2012

RECIPE - Mixed Vegetables in Coconut Milk (Legumes Cozidos ao Leite de Coco)

Here's a Brazilian solution to an age-old dilemma - how to jazz up a side dish of vegetables and turn them into something special. We all know that a good serving of vegetables is an important part of a nutritionally balanced a dinner plate, but night after night of meat and two veg can be deadly boring.

This traditional Brazilian recipe uses one of the most important ingredients in the Brazilian larder, coconut milk, to give mixed vegetables (or even single vegetables) a spark of life. If we were Mad Men, we'd say that the coconut milk puts the "extra-" in ordinary vegetables.

It's easy to keep a can or tetra-pak of coconut milk on your pantry shelf, so this recipes great when you're lacking inspiration. Just choose a mix of vegetables to suit, add the coconut milk and you've turned your meal tropical.

Note: The vegetables indicated in the recipe below are simply suggestions. You can change them, use only one or two, or even just one vegetable. Just make sure the total weight remains approximately the same.
RECIPE - Mixed Vegetables in Coconut Milk (Legumes Cozidos ao Leite de Coco)
Serves 4

1/2 lb boiling potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cubed
1/4 lb green beens, cut into 1 inch lengths
1/4 lb broccoli crowns, cut into florets
1/4 lb cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 Tbsp finely minced fresh Italian parsley
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
Put all the vegetables in a large saucepan along with the bay leaf and the piece of ginger. Add just enough water to come about half way up the vegetables. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pan, reduce heat and cook just until the vegetables are tender. Add the coconut milk, increase the heat and cook uncovered until the liquid reduces by about half. Remove from heat, remove the ginger and bay leaf, season to taste and serve immediately, spooning a bit of the liquid over each serving, then sprinkling a bit of parsley on top.

Recipe translated and adapted from Portal Sabores website.

Friday, November 16, 2012

It's Definitely Kitsch, but Is It Lewd? The Strange Story of Sacanagem

Flavors of Brazil didn't live in Brazil in the 1970s, but according to numerous Brazilian friends that decade was the era of a party appetizer with the very strange name - sacanagem.

According to the UOL/Michaelis online Portuguese to English dictionary, sacanagem is a noun meaning:
1 filthy behaviour, dirtiness, unfairness. 2 derision, raillery, mockery. 3 lewdness, licentiousness.

And in the authoritative Houaiss Portuguese-only dictionary, sacanagem is defined variously as "dirty trick", "peverse act", "libidinous behavior" and even "the act of masturbation."

One wouldn't think that this word would be used to name any dish that a self-respecting hostess would want to serve at a chic cocktail party, but in the 1970s (and at times even today) you can spot a dish of sacanagem on a Brazilian buffet table, or offered with cocktails. If you ask Brazilians about the dish (and we have), none of them can tell you how it came to have such a strange name, but they all remember sacanagem nostalgically, even as they admit that it really should be considered more kitch than cuisine.

Sacanagem isn't very far removed from some North American cocktail-party treats of the same vintage, particulary those parties that were called luaus or puu-puu parties - those with a Polynesian theme. Although there are numerous variations on sacanagem, boiled down to its basics it consists of toothpicks or small skewers on which are threaded slices of hot dogs, cubes of cheese, an olive and perhaps a cherry tomato, those picks then being stuck into some round ball-shaped object to hold them decoratively.

The ball-shaped holder for the sacanagem was sometimes a half of a watermelon, though the most popular was a half of a head of cabbage. At the most chic gatherings, the cabbage was covered with tin foil, giving the dish a Sputnik-like appearance.

Although the list of ingredients that can be employed to make sacanagem is large and includes things such as pineapple or watermelon cubes, everyone agrees that the only item that must be included in a proper sacanagem is chunks of hot dog - not fine charcuterie either, real mystery-meat hot dogs.

We won't be publishing a recipe for sacanagem like we usually do for Brazilian foods we discuss here on the blog, as the description above and the photos below should give you sufficient information to go wild and create your own sacanagem for your next cocktail party. You can be sure that your guests will ask you what is that bizarre looking satellite-type thingie sitting on the coffee table and whether it's safe to eat. You can amaze and surprise them by telling them its an exotic Brazilian dish from the 1970s. You can even tell them it's called sacanagem in Portuguese - just don't tell them what the word means.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RECIPE - Jambo Compote (Compota de Jambo)

One of the very simplest, and most delicious, ways to handle fruit that you don't want to or can't eat fresh is to turn it into a compote. A compote is nothing more than pure fruit and sugar, cooked down until the fruit is softened and the sugar is dissolved. Done.

In the past, in the days before refrigeration, compotes were an important method of preserving fruit and they allowed the harvest surfeit to be enjoyed long past the season. Today, compotes are eaten mostly because they're delicious, but their preservative powers shouldn't be neglected. When a seasonal fruit is at it's peak of ripeness and flavor turning it into a compote locks in that flavor, allowing you to enjoy it when that fruit isn't in season.

Compotes, unlike jams and jellies, aren't made for canning. They can be kept for a few weeks in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to several months. The fact that you don't have to deal with sterilizing jars, rings and lids makes them much less of a task than jams or jellies.

Compotes can be served as is as a dessert or breakfast dish. They also make wonderful toppings for ice cream, turning a good-quality vanilla ice cream into a marvelous sunday.

This traditional Brazilian recipe for jambo compote is a good guide to making compotes. It can be adapted to almost any other kind of fruit - just remember that you can not eliminate the sugar, nor even reduce it very much. It's the sugar that acts as a preservative.
RECIPE - Jambo Compote (Compota de Jambo)

4 cups chopped, seeded jambo (do not peel)
3 cups granulated white sugar
Combine the fruit and sugar in a large saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and the fruit has completely softened.

Remove from heat and let cool completely. Store in refrigerator until ready to use, or freeze for up to several months.

Monday, November 12, 2012


jambo rosa
It's been some time since Flavors of Brazil has added new material to our series of posts called FRUITS OF BRAZIL. That doesn't mean that we've exhausted the list of fruits that are cultivated and eaten in this country - not by a long shot. The list is enormous, and there are still many fruits that are quite common in Brazil, or at least in certain regions, that we haven't discussed. So it's time to get back to the tast at hand.

jambo branco
The fruit that Brazilian call the jambo (botanical name Syzygium jambos) has many names in English. Depending on the region, it is known as Malabar plum, plum rose, water apple, jambrosade, rose apple or Malay plum. The names Malabar plum and Malay plum indicate the fruit's original habitat - the tropical zones of South and Southeast Asia. The fruit was carried from Asia back to Portugal by early Portuguese navigators, and thence onward to Brazil, where it flourishes in the tropical regions of the country.

There are many varieties of jambo, but the three most commonly seen in Brazil are distinguished by their color - jambo vermelho (red jambo), which is a dark winy reddish-purple, jambo branco (white jambo) which is an icy, glossy white, and jambo rosa (pink jambo), which is light rosy pink in color.

jambo vermelho
The fruit of jambo is smallish, about the size of a child's fist, and slightly elongated - either pear-shaped or bell-shaped. The skin is waxy and thin, and the hollow core of the fruit contains one or two seeds. The flesh is white and is crispy and juicy like an apple. The fruit isn't highly flavored, though it is sweet. It is very aromatic, and the similarity of the fruit's aroma to roses accounts for such English names as plum rose or rose apple.

Jambo isn't highly commercialized, and is usually only seen in markets in areas where the fruit is cultivated. Most of the fruits consumed are eaten fresh, although jambo can be successfully preserved in syrup or made into a compote.

We'll publish a recips for jambo compote in our next post here at Flavors of Brazil.

Friday, November 9, 2012

RECIPE - Duck with Sauerkraut (Pato com chucrute)

It's a safe bet that the majority of this blog's readers never expected to find a recipe that included sauerkraut in a blog dedicated to exploring Brazilian cuisine and gastronomy. However, the recipe below for duck served with sauerkraut is authentically Brazilian. Like many other recipes that come from the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, the recipe came to Brazil with the thousands of German immigrants who settled in Santa Catarina in the early 20th century and over the course of the next hundred years became thoroughly Brazilianized - without losing their Teutonic heritage. Santa Catarina has Brazil's highest percentage of population who can trace their roots to Germany, and in the interior of the state there are many cities where German is commonly spoken and understood, along with Portuguese.

The recipe was created by a more recent German immigrant to Brazil, Heiko Grabolle, who was born in Germany and trained in that country, but who now lives in Florianopolis, the capital of Santa Catarina, where he teaches cooking and gastronomy.
RECIPE - Duck with Sauerkraut (Pato com chucrute)
Serves 4

1 whole duck
2 Tbsp butter
2 medium onions
1 Fuji apple
1 lb. prepared sauerkraut
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Cooking the duck:
Preheat the oven to 325F (160C). Season the duck inside and outside with salt and pepper. Place the duck in a non-stick roasting pan and roast the duck for two hours, basting the pieces every fifteen minutes with the accumulated pan juices. Remove from the oven and cut the duck into four serving pieces - two breasts and two legs.

Cooking the sauerkraut:
While the duck is roasting, chop the onion and peel, core and cube the apple. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and when the butter is hot add the onion and the apple. Cook for about five minutes or until the onions and apples are softened and the onion is transparent. Drain and rinse the sauerkraut, the add it to the pan. Pour the chicken broth and wine over, mix thoroughly and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauerkraut is done (The sauerkraut should have the consistency of risotto, neither soupy nor dry. It should be moist and creamy. Add a small amount of water if necessary during cooking to keep the sauerkraut moist). When the sauerkraut is done, turn off the heat, cover the pan and let rest for at least a half an hour for the flavors to develop.

Preparing the dish:
When the duck is close to being done, reheat the sauerkraut. Put a quarter of the sauerkraut on each of four dinner plates, and top with one of the pieces of duck. Accompany the duck with mashed or boiled potatoes, or with white rice.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RECIPE - Wild Duck with White Wine (Marreco com Vinho Branco)

Most recipes for duck, whether Brazilian or not, can be made using either domesticated farmyard ducks - the big white ones - or with wild ducks - brightly colored ducks such at mallards or teals. Both types are eaten in Brazil (as detailed in this post on Flavors of Brazil), and many Brazilian recipes suit both types of birds. But the two birds are not identical, and sometimes one or the other is better suited to a particular recipe.

Farmyard ducks (called pato in Portuguese) have milder-tasting meat and are generally much more fatty than their wild cousins (marreco in Portuguese). The wild birds boast of leaner meat, also much stronger in flavor, much gamier. Whether you prefer the milder taste of pato or the stronger taste of marreco is a matter of personal choice, but because the animals have differing levels of fat, recipes must take this difference into account.

This Brazilian recipe is best made with wild duck, or marreco. Since there is relatively little fat in wild duck, you needn't drain away fat or worry that the dish will be overly rich. The dish is high in flavor, but not heavy. When wine is combined with duck, red wine is usually called for in recipes for farmyard duck, as the stronger-flavored wine can stand up to the rich meat. On the other hand, wild duck, being less fatty, combines well with white wines, as in this recipe.

In southern Brazil, where this recipe comes from, the duck is often served with cooked red cabbage and apple sauce. Either mashed potatoes or buttered noodles are also appropriate.
RECIPE - Wild Duck with White Wine (Marreco com Vinho Branco)
Serves 6

6 whole wild duck legs (thighs and drumsticks)
4 Tbsp butter
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 lb (250 gr) black olives, pitted or unpitted
4 fresh sage leaves
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and melt the butter together. When hot, add the rosemary and sage leaves, then the duck legs. Cook until the legs are nicely browned on all sides. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat, add a tew tablespoons of water, and cover the pan. Cook over low heat just until the duck is cooked. Test for doneness by piercing a thigh with a sharp paring knife. When the juices run clear the duck is cooked.

Un cover the pan, increase the heat. Bring the dish to a boil and boil until any liquid evaporates. Add the white wine and the olives and continue to cook at high temperature until the wine reduces to a few tablespoons.

Serve immediately, spooning a bit of sauce and some olives over each leg as you plate it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

RECIPE REPOST - Duck in Tucupi (Pato no Tucupi)

As promised in Wednesday's post about ducks (pato or marreco in Portuguese) in Brazilian cooking, Flavors of Brazil is offering up some traditional recipes that show how Brazilian cooks have dealt with that delicious bird.

By far, the most famous Brazilian recipe for duck is something  called Pato no Tucupi, meaning simply Duck in Tucupi - tucupi being a yellow sauce extracted from wild manioc which is one of the identifying flavors of the cuisine of Brazil's Amazon region.

Flavors of Brazil has previously posted a recipe for Pato no Tucupi, as part of our On The Road series on posts about the city of Belém, Pará. You can find a this recipe by clicking here.