You know how some recipes adapt ingredients to make an overly heavy dish lighter and “healthier?” Maybe using cauliflower instead of potatoes, baking instead of frying? Well, this recipe is not it. This is authentic Brazilian cooking the way it was meant to be: substantial, loaded in carbs, and to make matters worse, breaded AND deep-fried. My advice? Enjoy it with a tropical smile, then go for a Spartan life-style for a couple of days. Totally worth it. This is the type of finger food that Brazilians grow up enjoying at parties and street markets. It originated in São Paulo, in the 19th century. It turns out that Imperial Princess Isabel had a son who loved to eat chicken, but he would only eat the thigh meat. One day, the cook ran out of chicken thighs and decided to shred the meat of chicken breasts, and hide it in a dough shaped as a drumstick. The boy loved it, and from then on coxinhas were a regular item in the Imperial kitchen. Imagine the thrill of that cook if he knew that 200 years later his creative recipe would be featured in a Bewitching Kitchen 6 thousand miles away!
Before getting in the gastronomic aspect of this delicacy, I must give you a little lesson on Brazilian Portuguese. I promise it won’t be too painful. Ready? Ok, in Portuguese you can turn almost any word into a diminutive form by adding the suffix “inho” or “inha” depending on the gender of the word. Masculine words get “inho“, feminine gets “inha“. A few examples:
Casa (house) –> Casinha (little house)
Gato (cat) –> Gatinho (kitten)
Chuva (rain) –> Chuvinha (very light rain)
Linda (beautiful) –> Lindinha (more appropriate to describe a young girl or baby)
So, that brings me to the title of this post, “coxinha de galinha.” Sounds like two diminutives put together, right? Not so fast, dear students! The first part is indeed a diminutive. It derives from “coxa” (thigh), so coxinha is a small thigh. Now, moving to the second part: galinha… that is not a diminutive per se, it is a real word that means chicken. The word for rooster is “galo.” So, in Portuguese a male rooster gets a beautiful word, but the female is defined by its diminutive form. How sexist is that?
All jokes aside, let’s make sure you can pronounce the words correctly. The “inha” component might be a bit tricky, be patient, listen carefully and repeat after me…
Sheila, a Brazilian graduate student from our department…
COXINHA DE GALINHA
(adapted from From Brazil to You)
For the filling:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely minced
1 celery rib, finely minced
3 cups cooked (or rotisserie) chicken, finely shredded
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
A pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ cup cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons minced green onions
minced cilantro leaves to taste
For the dough:
3-1/3 cup chicken stock
A pinch of salt (enough to taste)
¼ teaspoon annatto or turmeric
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
For dredging and frying:
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs, whisked with a tablespoon of water
2-3 cups breadcrumbs
enough vegetable oil to fully immerse the coxinhas
Prepare the filling: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. In a large bowl, place the finely shredded chicken and stir in the cooked onion and celery mixture, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes , the cream cheese, green onions, and cilantro. Set aside. It can be made a couple of days in advance, keep refrigerated.
Prepare the coxinha dough: In a large, non-stick saucepan, place the chicken stock, salt, annatto or turmeric, and olive oil, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. When the stock is hot, add the sifted flour all at once while stirring very well. It will get more and more difficult to stir but continue to stir vigorously for about 1 minute or so until obtaining a uniformly lumpy dough.
Remove from heat and transfer the coxinha dough to an electric mixer fitted with a hook attachment. Knead dough at low-speed for about 5 minutes or until it becomes soft and smooth. Scrape dough from mixing bowl onto a well-floured surface with a dough scraper or spatula, and knead a little bit more by hand. Shape the coxinha dough into a flat disk and let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.
Using a rolling-pin, roll out the dough onto a well-floured surface until it is about ¼ to ⅛-inch thick. Using a 3-1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out disks of dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (a metal spatula can be useful to help pry the disks from the rolling surface). Aggregate the dough leftovers, re-roll, and cut out more disks. You should have between 30 and 35 disks.
Form the coxinhas: Scoop about 1 tablespoon of the chicken filling onto the center of each disk. Lightly oil your hands and shape the filled disks into drumsticks by folding the dough up and around the filling into a beggar’s purse shape, forming the neck of the coxinha between your encircled index finger and thumb, and gently press the filling down into the center as you close. Pinch and seal the edges. Pull the dough at the top out slightly so that it resembles a drumstick. Use a moist towel to clean your fingers off each time they touch the filling. Make sure the dough has no cracks; if it does crack, wet your fingers in water and pinch the dough together. Flatten the rounded bottom of the coxinhas very minimally with the palm of your hand (just enough that they will be able to rest upright), and placed shaped coxinhas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Dredge and fry the coxinhas: Prepare three separate bowls for the all-purpose flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Pass the fritters through each bowl (flour, egg whites, and then breadcrumbs), shaking off any excess. Pour enough vegetable oil into a frying machine or heavy-bottomed pot. Heat to 350 degrees F. Fry the fritters in batches. Please, do not place too many coxinhas or chicken fritters in at the same time because this will lower the temperature, making the fritters oily. Make sure to turn all sides while frying the fritters so that they will brown evenly. Transfer coxinhas or fritters to a baking sheet lined with a double sheet of paper towels to absorb any excess oil. To serve coxinhas warm, keep the finished batches in a warm oven until serving.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: I won’t sugar coat the pill, this is a pretty involved culinary project. If you have a couple of friends to join in the fun it will be a lot easier. In that particular Sunday I had two friends over, Cindy, who has been a regular in our kitchen since the days we lived in Oklahoma, and Sheila who wanted to introduce Brazilian cuisine to her friends on campus. We made the full recipe, ending up with 33 coxinhas, more than enough for us to enjoy and share. Perfect!
Shaping takes some practice, but even if you don’t hit it perfectly it will taste great, it’s all about the crunchy outside, the soft dough, and the flavorful meat inside.
Nothing better than biting into one of these babies….. The turmeric gives the dough a characteristic yellow color, but you can definitely omit it. The same dough could be used to enclose all sorts of goodies, you can even opt for a vegetarian filling, but if you do, please don’t call them ‘veggie coxinhas,” and don’t worry about the shaping, go for a simple round or oblong fritter. I am so glad Sheila asked me to dive into this culinary adventure! I hope you enjoyed this post on a super traditional Brazilian delicacy. It was a great weekend, actually, because the day before Cindy and I made French macarons for the second time together. You will read all about it soon…
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