My mother-in-law's moqueca

I've been baking since 1pm today. And in a few more hours, I will start filling up little bags with Meyer Lemon Sablés, Chocolate Rads and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Apricot and Espresso, all of which I read about on Orangette of course. Oh and before that, I made those Winter Spiced Molten Chocolate Cakes with Rum-Ginger Ice Cream that I mentioned yesterday. Well, I haven't baked them yet, but nine buttered ramekins filled to the brim with a spicy, chocolatey batter are sitting in my fridge.

I also mentioned my mother-in-law's moqueca yesterday and promised that I'd tell you about it today. I didn't want to leave anyone hanging even though I'm sure none of you plan on making a spicy Brazilian seafood stew in the next few days. But maybe I'm wrong and that's just what you'll be serving for your holiday meal? Either way, I'm sure you're all as crazed as I am with last minute preparations, so I promise to be quick.

I first tasted this traditional seafood stew in Brazil seven years ago. Daniel and I were in Bahia at the time, and it was there that I decided to extend my visit from two weeks to six months. True love aside, I seriously think that all the good food had something to do with it.

Made with white fish (and sometimes shrimp), tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, coconut milk and peppers, moqueca is a colorful, comforting stew that's both sweet and spicy. In Bahia, it's made with dende, a bright red tropical oil that has a strong and intense flavor. In Espirito Santo, the region where Daniel's mom Cristina grew up, olive or soy oil are used instead.

When Cristina arrived last weekend, I relinquished control of my kitchen, and made sure to first put in a special request for moqueca. My friend Mona was coming for dinner Wednesday night and I knew she'd appreciate a good Brazilian meal. Mona had visited me while I was living in Brazil, and she too extended her stay, though I think some Brazilian boys, instead of the food, had something to do with that.

I arrived home on Wednesday to find my smiling sogra sashaying to samba while putting the finishing touches on a three-course meal (of course without a single cookbook to guide her).

I would have been happy with just moqueca but she went ahead and made a special shrimp salad appetizer and for dessert, we had fried bananas with vanilla ice cream. What's even better is that she seriously seems to like doing dishes.

I've never attempted to make a moqueca and am not sure I'll ever have to since both Daniel and Cristina make such good ones. But I still wanted to share the recipe and encourage all of you to give it a try. Or, if you live in New York, sample some at Delicia or Casa, two of our favorite Brazilian restaurants (just be warned that you'll wait at least a few hours for your food at the former).

Cristina tried her best to write down these recipes for me and with the little time I have right now, I tried my best to edit them. She guarantees that all three dishes are simple to make. So what are you waiting for? Go and make a moqueca! And if you're really adventurous, a shrimp salad and fried bananas too. And now it's time for me to take my last batch of Chocolate Rads out of the oven.

Moqueca Capixaba with Shrimp Salad Appetizer

Serves 5
6 white fish steaks (Tilapia works well and if you do not find steaks, use thick filets)
1 big onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1/2 a bunch of cilantro
Olive oil
A pinch of crushed dried red pepper
1 or 2 green jalapeños
1 red, 1 yellow and 1 green pepper sliced
6 plum tomatoes, diced
2 pounds of medium shrimp, shells on
1 can of coconut milk

First saute a garlic clove in olive oil (use a clay pot if you have one, if not a heavy saucepan will do) and add one pound of the shrimp. Add one sliced tomato in small pieces. Once the shrimp has cooked, remove their shells and reserve the shrimp for a salad. Keep the shrimp sauce as a base for the moqueca.

Next, saute two chopped cloves of garlic and one chopped onion in olive oil until the garlic becomes golden. Add the crushed red pepper, one chopped jalapeño, the tomatoes, sliced peppers, and the reserved shrimp sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and add more jalapeños if you want more heat. Once the tomatoes have softened, add the coconut milk and cilantro.

About twenty minutes before you're going to eat, add the fish and the second pound of shrimp. Once they've been added, do not cook the stew much longer -- only until the shrimp turns pink and is fully cooked. Do not stir or mix after adding the fish. Add salt to taste and, if necessary, add a bit more before serving.

Shrimp Salad

Whip a cup of heavy cream until it's thick with stiff peaks. Mix in ketchup, Spanish sherry, dill, salt and black pepper to taste. Place the shrimp you reserved from the moqueca on a small plate with two tablespoons of the sauce. Cut thin tomato slices and fan them out on the plate, together with some black olives and capers. If you'd like, add a bit of dill, parsley or chives and finish off with a few pieces of lettuce.

Fried Bananas with Vanilla Ice Cream
Cut a couple bananas crosswise and fry them in a few tablespoons of butter. When they get golden, add cinnamon. Remove them from the stove, add a little bit of rum and flambé. Serve with ice cream, some honey or maple syrup.

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Melting Wok said...

the moqueca looks absolutely delicious, quite similar to my malaysian curries, but on the lighter side, thx for sharing the recipe, cheers !:)

Lia said...

Melting Wok, it was absolutely delicious. And it actually does remind me of some Malaysian food I've had, though not as spicy.

Anonymous said...

I am living in Brazil and LOVE the moqueca here!!! I just bought a clay pot yesterday and can't wait to try your recipe. (This will be my first attempt at making it myself!)


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