Have you ever possessed a cookbook that's occupied a lot of time in your mind, but not so much in your kitchen? I spent hours reading the recipes in The Brazilian Kitchen by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, but it was nearly a year before I finally got around to making them.
It took some patience researching ingredients such as dendê oil and locating the most reliable and affordable places to buy them online. But ultimately, my efforts paid off, because there's nothing more rewarding than getting acquainted with unfamiliar cuisines.
This traditional stew is a staple in Brazil's Bahia, a northeastern coastal state that's heavily influenced by African and European cultures. Moqueca is typically made with seafood, but this milder version has plantains and chicken that's been slow-simmered until it's fall-off-the-bone tender. Don't be afraid of Bahia's most comforting dish; continue reading for the recipe.
1 whole chicken (about 3-1/2 pounds), with skin, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons dendê oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 pound ripe plantains (look for yellow and black speckled skin)
3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
According to Schwartz, true Brazilians prefer to eat their plaintains ripe or semi-ripe, when the fruit has a fuller balance of sweetness and starch and carries more juice.
- Place the chicken pieces in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of the dendê oil. Rub the chicken all over with the oil, making sure it is well distributed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Pour the remaining dendê oil into a large Dutch oven and swirl around so the entire bottom is covered. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, and brown them lightly, over medium heat, for 3 minutes per side, working in batches if necessary.
- Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean bowl and cover with aluminum foil, making sure no steam can escape.
- Add the onion, scallions, and bell pepper to the pan and cook them in the leftover dendê oil, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half, while using a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits that stayed in the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, tomato paste, and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Add the chicken and any remaining juices that accumulated in the bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, until the chicken starts to get tender, about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, trim the ends off the plantains and cut 3 to 4 vertical slits in the skin, making sure not to cut deep into the fruit. Peel and cut the plantains into 1-inch chunks.
- Add the plantains to the moqueca after it has been simmering for an hour. Cover and continue to simmer until the plantains become soft but not mushy, 10 to 15 minutes. If the liquid seems too runny, uncover the pan and continue to simmer, allowing the steam to evaporate and thicken the stew. Taste, and season again with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Just a few minutes before serving, add the tomatoes. Garnish with the fresh cilantro and serve over white rice or farofa.
Serves 4 to 6.
- Poultry, Main Dishes
- South American