Wednesday, August 1, 2018

HAWSEPIPER COOKS: Coxinha, the Brazilian treat

The best part about Brazilian food is that generally it won't kill you. Brazilian food is not heavily spiced, and relies more on savory than spice. Healthy, simple ingredients make for wonderfully flavored foods... which is part of why people happily line up to spend $30-100 a person for buffet service at a Brazilian BBQ joint in the US.

     When it comes to snack foods, my absolute favorite, as a man who loves to eat too much, is the Coxinha (Pronounced "Ko-sheen-ya,"  a fried chicken treat that is widely available... in Brazil. Think chicken salad wrapped in dough and fried into a teardrop shape about the size of a small egg. Sounds... weird, right? Make these babies or find them in a Brazilian grocery store and you'll be instantly hooked. And holy shit, talk about awesome finger food for a party. After trying these, you'll never make nachos again. There's a reason why Brazilians in America think Mexican food has no soul.

     This is street-cart food in Brazil- great snack or meal on the go, good with booze or beer, too. Since we eat on a Brazilian schedule in my house, dinner is at 4pm, and the main meal of the day. Around 8 I'll do a charcuterie plate, or Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife will throw together an appetizer of sorts along with bread or fruit and cheese, and on weekends, coxinhas or Pao de queijo, a type of cheesy bread.

 The thing about cooking coxinhas, is that you don't always have to. If there is a Brazilian grocery or bakery in your area, you can get these things fresh or frozen, and they're often really good- They're mad in big batches and the uneaten portions frozen, so they don't have to be made very often. They freeze and reheat REALLY well. If you buy them frozen, you do need to find out if they've been fried or not yet. They need to be fried ONCE (never refry them, it turns into mush!) but after, if they've gotten cold or were frozen,  they can be baked back to life and still be perfectly good.

    This is NOT a complicated recipe. There are a bunch of steps, though, and it takes a little time. I suggest catching up on a documentary or Deadliest Catch on TV, or splitting a bottle of wine with your spouse while doing the prep, and talk about your day, or why Pinochet did nothing wrong. You know, whatever makes you happy. Brazilians often  make the mix up at night, freeze it, and cook portions if it another day. With the steps, it's easy to clean up after yourself. You can freeze this stuff at any step in the process and continue on later.

 A word on cheeses: The best cheese for this is catipury cheese, which you'd need to get in a latino grocery. Cream cheese is a perfectly good substitute, though.

A word on flour:  The authentic coxinha is made with cassava (often called manioc) flour. Although it is gluten-free (I don't care) it can be hard to find outside a latino grocery, and regular old white flour will do.

  • 1.5 pounds chicken breasts, boneless 
  • 4 to 5 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 softened 8-oz pack of cream cheese or catipury cheese
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups flour or manioc
  • 2- 3 cups bread crumbs
  • 3 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 To make:

  1. Put the chicken  in a large shallow pot. Cover them with the chicken broth, adding water if necessary to make sure the chicken breasts are covered by at least 1/2"
  2. Add the carrot and one of the onions (peeled and halved) and bay leaves
  3. Bring to a LOW boil, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through (you want a little pink in the middle ). It's necessary to cut into the chicken to tell when it is done. Remove pieces as they finish, so as not to overcook.
  4. Set chicken aside to cool, and strain and keep the broth.
  5. Shred the chicken into very small pieces. Food processor is easiest but you can also use your fingers or two forks.
  6. Stir the softened cream cheese and lime juice into the shredded chicken.
  7. Finely chop the second onion and the garlic. Sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of butter until soft but not brown. Don't burn them!
  8. Finely shred the carrot (or toss in a food processor and drain). Add the carrot, hot onions and garlic to the chicken mix and stir well.
  9. Measure the chicken broth you saved.  You need at least 3 cups, so add more canned chicken broth to make 3 cups if you have to.  Boil the broth in a saucepan and gradually stir in the same amount of flour as you have broth. If you have 3 cups, add 3 cups of flour. If you have 3 1/2, add 3 1/2. 
  10. Stir constantly (don't stop!) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. This makes a stiff dough.  Remove from heat and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Also put the shredded chicken in the fridge for an hour, or overnight.
At this point, you can refrigerate everything for a day or two, or continue.  Very forgiving stuff.
  1. Flour your hands and take a piece of the dough about the size of an egg. Roll it into a ball, then hollow out the middle for the filling.
  2. Press a golfball size (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) lump of the chicken filling inside the ball of dough, and press the dough closed around the filling. Shape into an approximate drumstick or teardrop shape. Be ready to reflour your hands as needed. Stand the coxinhas on a baking sheet, so that the pointed end sticks upwards. Continue until you run out of dough or filling.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Place the bread crumbs in a shallow pan or bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Dip the coxinhas in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs to coat. Refrigerate the coxinhas for 1 hour, and then either cook or freeze them.
  5. Fill a  pot with enough oil to cover the coxinhas. Heat the oil to 360 degrees. Fry the coxinhas in batches until deep golden brown.
  6. Bask in the adulation of everyone you feed. 

EDIT: I had to add some details about the carrot and garlic, thanks to an astute reader.


STxAR said...

I plan make it this weekend. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Looks amazing! Thanks for the recipe.

greendiver said...

Hi Paul, Read you frequently and enjoy your writing style. The "coxinha" recipe sounds great but I have a couple questions. How much garlic? It wasn't listed in the ingredients. What are you to do with the carrot and onion that was cooked with the chicken breast? I assume (danger) that you peel the carrot, do you then cut it in pieces or in half lengthwise or what? Do you just toss those out after cooking with the chicken? Thanks in advance for the help and hope you're not ready to choke some fool on your extended tour. One more question, what makes the hot wife "inappropriate"? Asking for my wife.

Paul, Dammit! said...

greendiver- thanks for noticing- I added detail to the post. For the garlic, 1-2 cloves, smashed and chopped fine, and the carrot needs to be peeled beforehand, and shredded VERY finely after cooking, or better, tossed in a food processor, and added to the shredded chicken.

As for my wife, 'disproportionately' is more accurate, but after a certain amount of use, I just kept the word 'inappropriate.' It certainly seems that way when we are posed together. I got that whole Billy Joel/Christy Brinkley disparity thing going.