A Brazilian Thanksgiving Eve : Moqueca de camarão, Mango & Avocado Salad and Pudim de leite

I know, I know. It’s ridiculous. But every year, on the night before Thanksgiving, we have a dinner party.

You see, my friend Andy and his daughter are clowns in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. So their family stays with us the night before in order to be able to get to the parade on time (5:30 am for the clowns), and we all have a nice dinner together. For the past two years, our friends in from Maine have also joined us. It’s a wonderful, low-key evening, and I look forward to it every year. I try (usually unsuccessfully) to keep the fare light, and we all try to end the evening early so the clowns can get to bed.

Of course, part of the reason I can enjoy Thanksgiving Eve is that I do not have to cook dinner the next day. We head to Philly on Thursday morning, and tag team two family back-to-back dinners. (Don’t ask… ) I usually bake a pie and bring some sides, but that’s the limit of my responsibility.

This year’s Thanksgiving Eve dinner was a challenge. Isabelle cannot have anything fermented or with cow’s milk, and one of the kids is now a vegetarian. It took awhile, but I finally hit on the perfect menu – Brazilian fish stew (most of which is made ahead), and mango and avocado salad with a lime vinaigrette. Dessert was flan with fruit. (Oops, Isabelle. I got so caught up with the Brazilian theme I forgot about the milk. Did you even have dessert?) We served a white pinot, but I don’t know if this was the best choice of wine. Suggestions are welcome…

The kids set the table with the fancy dishes, and we put up votive candles all around the apartment. Emily S. Arrived early and helped us set up the appetizers (Thanks, E.S.!), which were crostini topped with chopped liver or white bean and sage puree, olives, baby carrots, apple slices, roasted peppers in oil and a wonderful sheep’s milk cheese from Fairway.

I had a great time. This year, the clowns were in bed by 10:30 – not too bad – and the rest of us hit the sack by 11:30. Thanks, Linda for doing the dishes. We missed you Sam, but hope to see you at Christmas. Happy Thanksgiving!

Moqueca de camarao (Brazilian Fish Stew) (See original recipe at Epicurious.com)

This goes down in culinary history as one of the best dishes I have ever had. It’s a great dish to make to amaze your friends, and so easy.

The original recipe calls for pureeing the diced tomatoes, but I chose to keep them whole. I’ve also re-written the recipe to reflect how I prepared it ahead. If you are making it just for yourself, and not ahead of time, use the Epicurious version. I was not able to find dende oil (red palm oil) at my usual sources (Fairway and Gourmet Garage), but am determined to get it before I make this again. I cannot imagine this stew could taste any better than it already does, but from what I have read, that oil puts the flavors over the top.

Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 (14- to 15-oz) can diced tomatoes including juice

1 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (to be added just before adding shrimp)

Shrimp marinade
1 1/4 lb large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per lb), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Last-Minute Additions
1 tablespoon dende (palm) oil
4 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro

Accompaniment
Cooked white rice (I used Basmati)

Cook onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cayenne, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and simmer briskly, stirring, until mixture is very thick, about 15-30 minutes.

Make marinade and keep, covered, in the fridge till you are ready to use it.

About 40 minutes before serving, start your rice cooking. Then toss shrimp with marinade in a large bowl, and let sit in fridge, covered, for about 20 minutes. (Not any longer, or you will have ceviche).

5-10 minutes before serving, stir coconut milk into sauce and bring to a boil. Add shrimp mixture and cook, stirring, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in dende oil and remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Plate individually, first putting rice into a small bowl, then inverting it onto the plate. Spoon the stew over the rice. Keep bowls of stew and rice on the table, though – everyone will want seconds!

Mango and avocado Salad with Lime and Honey Vinaigrette

salad greens (We mixed red lettuce with mesclun)
large ripe mango, halved, pitted, peeled, sliced
2 small avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, sliced
Juice of 1/2 lime
3 tbsp honey (Depends on how tart or sweet you like it.)
1 tbsp hot water
½ cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Whisk the honey and lime together with the hot water. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss greens with ¾ of the dressing. Arrange mango and avocado on top of greens and drizzle remaining dressing over them.

Pudim de Leite (Brazilian Flan)

There are many ways to make flan. Some recipes use eggs, others add corn starch or use cream instead of milk. All start with caramelized sugar, which forms the base (and later, the top) of the dish. This is the Brazilian version, from Maria Brazil web site, with a few modifications on my part. You can use a ring mold if you are being traditional. I used a Pyrex glass dish.

1 cup sugar (for the caramel)
1 12-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
Equal volume of regular milk (use the can to measure)
3 eggs
1 quart strawberries, washed and drained
Lovely cookies

Place 1 to 2 inches of water in a large roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and preheat to 325°.

Put the sugar into a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium high heat, stirring almost constantly, until the sugar melts into a golden brown caramel. (Watch carefully, it goes slowly, then turns color quickly.)

Pour carefully into pyrex dish or mold. (Listen for cracking noises as the sugar cools and cracks!) and spoon it a bit up the sides of the dish. Be careful not to burn the sugar and yourself. Let it cool.

Whisk together the condensed milk, regular milk and eggs. Pour this mixture through a fine sieve into your prepared dish. (This gets any little egg lumps out).

Place the dish carefully into the center of the roasting pan with water. Bake for about 1 hour. (You will know it is done when you can insert a knife inserted into the center without the custard pooling into the defect you made.) Carefully remove the dish, Let it cool to room temperature and then place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Just before serving, run the tip of a knife around the inside of the mold. Place a deep platter over the mold and invert: the flan should slide out easily. If not, give the mold a firm but careful shake. Cut into squares. Plate with a spoon of caramel sauce on top, two strawberries and a little cookie.

Serves about 10.

Category: Food

5 Responses to A Brazilian Thanksgiving Eve : Moqueca de camarão, Mango & Avocado Salad and Pudim de leite

  1. Moqueca without dende oil is not moqueca because that’s what makes it a unique dish. Once you try it you’ll agree with me.

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