Carmo’s Gulf Seafood Moqueca
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- Yield: 6-8 servings
According to Chef Dana Honn of Carmo, his recipe for Gulf Seafood Moqueca is “Brazilian heritage in a dish.” And when you add fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, well, it’s just that much better.
For more than three centuries, Brazilians from the Northeast of the country have been making moqueca. Its name comes from a method of cooking used by Brazilian indigenous peoples called moquém, which refers to fish or meat with root vegetables wrapped in leaves then roasted over a fire. The dish was embellished by African slaves in Brazil to include dende and coconut milk who prepared it in clay pots instead of leaves. By the mid 19th century, moqueca had become a common dish throughout Brazil. Chef Honn serves this traditional Brazilian fish stew with cassava grits and rice.
- 2 white onions, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, diced finely
- 1 red bell pepper, cut in rings
- 1 green bell pepper, cut in rings
- 3 ripe medium tomatoes, diced
- 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 4 tbsp high-quality dende (red palm oil)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 pounds fish fillets, cut in serving-size pieces (2”x2”)
- 2 pounds medium shrimp
- 1 lime
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup sweet basil, chopped
- 1/2 cup green onions, diced
- Sea salt to taste
For the Pirão (Cassava Grits):
- 1 cup Farinha de Mandioca (manioc flour)
For the Rice:
- 3 cups of white long-grain rice 6 cups of water
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- In a cast iron pot on high heat, sauté onions, peppers and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons of dende.
- As the mixture begins to brown, add tomatoes and 1/2 can of coconut milk, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
- In a separate skillet on high heat, brown the fish on each side for approximately 1-2 min. Add the cilantro, green oinions, basil, juice of 1 lime, shrimp, fish, the rest of the coconut milk and dende to the sauce mixture.
- Stew until the shrimp and fish are cooked through (be careful not to overcook).
- Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil then salt to taste.
Pirão (Cassava Grits) Directions:
- In a skillet, add 2 cups of the liquid from the moqueca to 1 cup of farinha de manioca.
- Cook on medium heat stirring constantly until the consistency is smooth and still fluid.
- Salt if necessary.
Note: Manioc flour can be found at many Latino groceries.
Everyone has their method, but basically you want white long- grain rice cooked to fluffy perfection. Just be sure and toss the salt olive oil in the water before you cook it.
A Brazilian-style hot sauce is nearly a requirement for serving with moqueca. If you have a Brazilian or Latin market in your area, ask for malagueta peppers, which will most likely be sold in small bottles. You can just chop/ mash them with some lime, vinegar, a little sea salt and olive oil (you see this is becoming a theme) and throw in some green onions and cilantro, if you like. In the case you don’t have access to such a market, you could try using fresh Thai green chiles, serranos or fresnos instead of the malaguetas. If that’s still a challenge, try a bottled cayenne vinegar-based hot sauce, that should do the trick.
Chef Honn says family-style is the best way to enjoy Moqueca, so gather everyone around the table and show them how to plate it ... a couple of spoons of rice topped with an ample portion of moqueca, a few tablespoons of pirão on the side and hot sauce to taste. Everyone will discover their own way to savor the symphony of flavors and textures.