Archive for February, 2012

Feijoada (Bean Stew)

There’s a lot of flexibility in feijoada. Let’s first take the “feijao” (beans): Traditional continental Portuguese recipes use white beans, Azoreans use kidney beans, Brazilian use black beans, and Americans put in whatever suits their fancy. Now the meat: Some type of sausage, which is traditionally linguiça or chouriço, but you can also add other cuts and cures of pork such as presunto, salpicao, chops, etc. Now for veggies: some onions and maybe a tomato or two, but you can get fancy and add some carrots or even cabbage. All of this is regional and personal-taste specific. Here’s my version, which really is basically what I had on hand tonight:

  • 3 Pork Chops
  • 6″ piece of chouriço, thickly sliced
  • Olive oil to fry
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 cup white wine (I used some Vinho Verde)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can cannelloni beans

Brown the meats in the olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Saute the onion, garlic, and carrots for a few minutes, scraping up the tasty browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and let simmer on the stovetop or bake in a 350F oven for 1 1/5 hours.

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We served ours with rice and braised asparagus.  Yum!

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And our favorite, everyday Portuguese wine, “Porca de Murça.”

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Assa Chourico (Assa Chouriço) or Flaming Sausage!

Holy smokes, Batman, it’s dinner and a show! In the mind of a toddler, it’s a sausage’s birthday party and help is needed blowing out the candles. Here’s how to  have all this fun at home:

Get a vessel for the flame. I have no idea what it’s called and neither does Portuguese husband. Mine is painted with “assa chouriço,” which roughly translates as sausage cooked over flames. I’ve also seen them shaped like a pig.

Find yourself some Portuguese brandy moonshine, which is called “aguardente” (water with a bite firewater). Of course, you can substitute some other strong spirit. While you’re finding things, get some chouriço, too. You can substitute chorizo. It won’t be the same, but at least you’ll still get to light it on fire. Score to increase surface area and provide quicker roasting. Set the apparatus up with the aguardente in the well and the chouriço on top and light it up! I recommend a fairly long-sticked match.  Ooo, pretty flames…

Roast the sausage on the open flames until it reaches the desired state of flaming crispiness. Add more spirits if you run low and vice versa blow out the flame if you’ve too much.  If the fire alarm goes off, open a window and remind yourself that this is probably a better idea during warmer weather.  Fortunately, we needed no such reminding this evening and happily continued roasting on the dining room table.  Maybe it was the deliciousness of the chouriço or perhaps it was the burning alcohol, but there was much rejoicing… yay!

Seeds!

Although too early to even start inside, I bought some seeds this weekend because it’s been so beautifully Spring-ish.

 

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Petingas (Little Sardines) or the Most Bizarre Thing I Ever Ate

Yuck! Gross! I don’t know how I was conned into eating them, but somehow, bizarrely, they’re great! Petingas are small sardines, about 2-3″, which are dredged in salted flour and fried in olive oil. Just close your eyes and try them. Yes, head, bones, tail, and all. I’m not sure how this American did it, but trust me, somehow they really are good. Like a salty, crunchy, fishy french fry. Here’s the recipe:

Find fresh or frozen petingas. You’ll probably need to find a Portuguese market or special order them from your local fish monger. If you’re using frozen, defrost them first.

Gut the little things. I thought this was not for the faint at heart, but it really is surprisingly easy. Take a pairing knife and slice through the belly at the base from pelvic fin to the anal fin.

Use the knife or your fingers to remove the guts (i.e. liver, intestines, etc).

Lightly salt the fish and then dredge in white flour.

Heat a pan with 1″ or so of olive oil and fry until golden brown and crisp.

Enjoy!  They are commonly served on broa, which is Portuguese yeast-risen cornbread.

Broa (Portuguese Yeast-Raised Cornbread)

Dense and chewy interior with a thick, crusty exterior… This bread is nearly a meal in itself.

  • 2 packages active dry yeast (If you’re using old-school yeast, you’ll need to make a sponge, if using the packets, you do not and ignore this)
  • 2 cups stoneground cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cups milk (or use all water)
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups bread flour

Scald the milk and water by heating on the stove until small bubbles appear. Pour over the cornmeal and mix. Lumpy is ok. Allow it to cool until lukewarm so you don’t kill the yeast. Add the remaining ingredients and knead, knead, knead. Or if you have a Kitchen-Aid, get your dough hook out and let it knead, knead, knead for you. You’ll probably want to work in two batches if you’re going with the latter method so as not to burn out your motor. Use the “spa” method to create a faux brick-and-steam oven. Bake at 500F for a total of about 35-45 minutes, remembering to sprinkle water on the bricks for steam every 10 minutes or so (or you can go for a drier interior and bake 15 minutes at 500F, reduce to 400 and 30 minutes more). But I say go for that moist interior because bread will naturally dry out by the second day anyway.

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Improvised Brick-and-Steam Oven for Bakery Quality Bread at Home

I like to call this the bread “spa” method. Ever wonder why bakery bread gets that crunchy crust and meltingly moist interior? Professional bakeries use professional ovens which the home cook can mimic in a regular home oven. How do we treat our bread to an afternoon at the spa’s sauna? It’s as easy as bricks and water!

Treatment I: Massage and Gentle Dough Sauna for Rising

Don’t turn on the oven! I mean, you haven’t even made the dough yet, right? So use that cool oven as a draft-free space for rising your dough. As you finish kneading (massaging) your dough, set some water to boil on the stovetop. Put your dough in a bowl large enough for the anticipated rise and place it in the unheated oven. In a separate dish, pour the boiling water. Close the oven door and allow to rise in the warm, steamy, spa-like environment you’ve just created. If they could talk, the yeast would thank you. Just remember to take out the rising apparatus and dough prior to preheating! Oh yes, preheating is the perfect time for shaping your dough according the style you are baking.

Ok, before moving on, I hear some purists shouting that a long, cool rise is the best for developing flavor. Yes, I get that, but I also know that I’m look for volume and that in my experience the yeastie-beasties seem to just shut down in cool temperatures and the height and texture is not attained. Perhaps an accord can be reached with mixed methodology? Ah, an ideal for future home bakers to reach for… but, until then…

Treatment II: Intense Swedish Sauna for Baking

Ok, you’ve removed everything in the oven from Part I, right? Good. Then it’s time to set up your faux brick oven. The rack for the intended bread needs to be in the middle. If you’re using a pizza stone, you can put it there now. You’ll also need a rack towards the bottom. Why? Because it’s time to go hunting… for bricks! So get up, go outside, and find some boring unglazed bricks. What? You don’t have any lying around your backyard? That is strange as they seem to multiple like some extra terrestrial being here. Don’t fret if the brick aliens haven’t invaded your town, you can use any unglazed terra cotta pots or a pizza stone — anything that will go “sizzle” when you splash it with ice water without breaking will work. Also remember that bricks and stones and stuff hold heat nicely, so don’t be shy about adding them. Once you’re set up, turn that oven up to 500F. Did you hear your oven beep indicating that it’s up to temperature? Well, I hate to break it to you, but your oven is lying. Ouch. It’s not its fault, really. It thinks it’s telling the truth and I want to have faith that the inside air temperature truly is 500F. But once that door is opened, bye-bye air. So keep it closed and let it truly come to temperature, walls, bricks, and all, which will take about 20 minutes.

Now the fun part. You want to work quickly to keep the oven door closed and maintain temperature. Have your dough ready to bake and set aside some ice-water and an ice-water transfer apparatus (i.e. small measuring cup with handle, bulb/turkey baster, etc.). If you’re baking on a pizza stone or the like, it’s already ready to go, and you can just slide your formed dough on it. If not, place your dough on a baking sheet and place it on the middle rack. Get some ice water ready and splash some on your bricks. Poof! It’s a steam sauna! Close that oven door quickly and allow it to work it’s magic. Repeat the sauna method every 10 minutes or so until the bread is finished. How do you know when to take it from the oven? When finished, bread will sound hollow when tapped.

Treatment III: Towel Wrap

I learned this additional technique from my husband’s Portuguese grandparents, who used to own a bakery. Not all breads need this treatment, but it works particularly well with very thick-crusted bread, such as pao caseiro (Portuguese homestyle bread) and broa (Portuguese Cornbread). After removing your bread from your oven, wrap it in a towel and then a blanket and let it cool before cutting into it. The moisture in the bread continues to steam the interior whilst maintaining that amazing crust. The texture created is unsurpassed. If you make a very large loaf in the afternoon, it’s still warm when dinner comes around. Just be sure to cool it completely prior to putting it in anything airtight.

Sardinhas no Forno (Baked Sardines), Esparregado (Sauteed Greens), and Batatas a Murro (Punched Potatoes)

These recipes are from Ana Patuleia Ortins’ “Portuguese Homestyle Cooking.” Sardinhas no Forno are on page 54, Esparregado on page 154, and Batatas a Murro on page 139. Use local potatoes and greens. I’ve been successful with both the spinach as called for in the recipe as well as swapping it out with other local greens, such as kale or broccoli rabe.

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