At Paraty, Brazil’s Academy of Cooking and Other Pleasures, chef Yara Castro Roberts and her photographer husband Richard (authors of the Brazilian recipe book The Brazilian Table) teach travelers to prepare four course dinners based each night on a different region of Brazil. One of Yara’s signature dishes is Trouxinha de Peixe, a Brazilian-style Fish Paupiette, stuffed with crabmeat. This recipe is a refined version of a traditional Bahian moqueca, a fish stew now found all over Brazil, though especially in African influenced tropical northeast of the country.
Recipe: Trouxinha de Peixe
- 3 cups fish stock
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 large red bell peppers washed
- 1 yellow bell pepper washed
- 1 pound of tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in large pieces, or 1 large can tomatoes
- 1½ cups unsweetened coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons palm oil (palm oil gives the dish its final flavor and color. It is available in African special food stores as well as in Indonesian food markets. In the USA, Whole Foods have a version of it. Alternatively, you could use olive oil with achiote to give the color)
- 1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
- 6 filet hake, or yellow tile, or kingfish
- 10 ounces crabmeat
- 2 egg whites
- ¼ cup fresh thick cream
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt to taste
- 6 whole scallions
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Place the bell peppers on a baking sheet and bake them for 1 hour. Then place them in a covered pan to cool. Peel the bell peppers, discard the seeds and cut them in large squares. Reserve.
In a medium size heavy pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions for 3 minutes or until wilted. Add the garlic, stirring well and then the chopped cilantro. After 2 minutes, add the tomatoes, stirring well. Add the fish stock, salt, pepper, and bay leaf, and cover the pot, simmering gently for 20 minutes. Add the baked bell peppers and simmer for 15 minutes more
Remove from heat and let it cool. Purée the cooled mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth and uniform. Reserve. In a small bowl whisk lightly the egg white and combine with the crabmeat. Add the fresh cream and season with salt and the cayenne. Reserve. Grind the roasted peanuts in a food processor or blender and after cooled, keep it in a jar.
Blanche the scallions in boiling water and immediately place them in a bowl with ice and cold water. Strain them and place flat on parchment paper. Set aside. Pound the fish filet gently. Place 2 tablespoons of the crab mixture in the center of the filet and roll the filet making sure the overlap stays at the bottom. Gently tie the paupiettes with the scallions and set aside.
Heat the vegetable puree in a large skillet. When it is simmering fold in the coconut milk and cook for 3 minutes. Preheat the palm oil in the microwave for 1 minute or in boiling water for 3 minutes. Add the palm oil and cook for another 3 minutes. Place the paupiettes around the skillet and cover with parchment paper. Make sure the paupiettes are immersed in the sauce. Poach the paupiettes for 20 minutes over medium heat.
This dish is best accompanied by dendé rice, a Brazilian-style risotto (see recipe below). Lay 1/2 cup of the rice in the center of a plate forming a 5-inch circle. Place one paupiette on top of the rice. Pour the vegetable puree around the rice and sprinkle with roasted peanut and serve at once with hot pepper sauce.
Rice with Palm oil Béchamel Sauce
- 3 cups cooked rice
- ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons palm oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the vegetable oil until foaming. Add the flour at once and stir to form the roux. Using a whisk, slowly pour the milk beating vigorously to prevent lumps. Keep whisking for more or less 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the palm oil and stir, cooking for 4 minutes. (Yield 2 cups).
Heat the béchamel and warm the rice. Gently fold the béchamel sauce into the rice. The rice should have the consistence of a risotto.
Hot pepper sauce
- ¼ cup Malagueta pepper or fresh chili
- 5 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 5 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the hot peppers and onions in a mortar. Crush them until you obtain a paste. Add the limejuice and the oil and mix well. Pour in a jar and refrigerate it. (Yield ½ cup)
Huw Hennessy, a UK travel writer and journalist, lives in the green countryside of Devon, southwest England. The lure of Latin America has led him astray for 25 years or so, with a particular soft spot for the wildlife and the people. Check out his new book, a guide to Rio de Janeiro, published by the AA (Automobile Association)