Yesterday at a house party I made “Moqueca,” a Northeastern Brazilian seafood dish served in a clay pot. Fish and some shellfish are quickly boiled in an aromatic broth of coconut milk, vegetables, cilantro and the highly flavorful Brazilian palm oil, dendê.
I learned from my Brazilian friends how varied the differences are for this dish. This picture is during an intense discussion about the use of garlic. I have found that the best way to learn is to cook and eat with friends who have enjoyed the food all their lives.
Since it was Sunday afternoon, mimosas were served during the preparation. Lovely!
Here’s the recipe.
Fresh coconut milk
Crack open a brown mature coconut and reserve the liquid. Then using a butterknife or similar blunt but sturdy instrument, pry gently the white coconut from the shell. The white coconut will break into medium size pieces as you pry. Be careful you don’t get flying shards in your eys. Cut the white coconut into small dice, place in a blender, add the reserved coconut water and purée until completely liquified. Add tap water if needed to blend properly. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Garlic, minced, 2 cloves
Kosher salt, 1 Tbsp
2 Limes, juiced
Cilantro, half bunch, chopped coarsely
Roma tomatoes, diced, 4
Green bell chiles, 1
Yellow onion, 1 medium
mahi-mahi or halibut fillets, 1 lb
fresh shrimp, 1 lb
crab fingers or lump, 1 lb
Make a smooth paste with the salt, garlic and half the lime juice (2Tbsp) and rub the fish filets with all of it. Place the filets in a glass dish or ziplock bag to marinade, also adding half the cilantro, chopped. Marinade from 1 to 3 hours. (One of my native BahÃa friends at the party said NOT to marinade. you decide)
In a 12″ saute pan or in a dutch oven (I assume most of us don’t have the Brazilian moqueca pot)
add about 1-2 Tblspn dendê oil and sweat the onions, bell chiles, then add the tomatoes.
Once the vegetables are soft, add the coconut milk. Simmer gently for 1 hour, a bit longer is ok, so the flavors develop fully and the broth is reduced.
Add the fish, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add the shrimp and crab and cook for another 2 minutes.
Sprinkle with the remaining chopped cilantro
Drizzle with lime juice and a bit of dendê oil, taste and adjust the salt.
Serve tableside while it is bubbling. Yum!!!