Two ways to make these delicious little morsels, perfect as a little appetizer or even as a side-dish, which is how we served them. You can use a creamy cheese, such as ricotta, perhaps mixing a bit of egg yolk for added structure, but I opted for halloumi cheese, that retains its texture quite well during baking. The first method requires a mandolin to slice the zucchini, as you need really thin slices so that they bend. You could slice it thicker and blanch them before forming the parcels, but I prefer to skip that additional step.
ZUCCHINI-PROSCIUTTO PARCELS (from The Bewitching Kitchen)
1 or 2 large zucchini prosciutto slices, one per appetizer 1/4 cup olive oil juice of half a lemon salt and pepper to taste halloumi cheese cut in pieces, one per roll
Whisk the olive oil with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper. Reserve.
If using ribbons, cut the zucchini in very thin slices, as thin as your mandolin will go. If using zucchini pieces, cut them in squares of a size similar to the cheese. Brush the zucchini with the emulsified oil-lemon. Assemble each little package, either rolling or stacking.
Place over aluminum foil on a baking sheet and bake at 400F util the prosciutto is golden brown (about 25 minutes, depending on size). The zucchini will release a lot of juice during baking but it will dry out as it continues roasting. Do not panic, it will look a little hopeless before it looks great…
Comments: I don’t know which version I prefer. The one with very thin zucchini slices looks a little more elegant but the zucchini pretty much disappears as far as taste and texture are concerned. The second way to do it makes the zucchini more prominent, but it does not look as good, so it’s really a matter of deciding which path you want to take. I do like the use of halloumi. If you go with a melting cheese, definitely do the zucchini ribbons to wrap the whole thing better.
Puff pastry turns any delicacy into something special. It is hard to beat the taste and texture of a nicely laminated dough. You can go sweet or savory, you can skip any additions, just form them as sticks, twist them around and enjoy plain or with a humble sprinkle of spices. Today I share a recipe for puff pastry squares using a classic Brazilian filling: chicken and hearts of palm.
CHICKEN AND HEART OF PALM SQUARES (from the Bewitching Kitchen)
for rough puff pastry: (makes a little more than you’ll need)
345 g unsalted butter, frozen
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
300g all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp (to toss with grated butter)
80 g whole milk, cold
80 g water, cold (may not use it all)
1 egg for egg wash
for the filling:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 lemon (to poach chicken)
salt and ground black pepper to poach chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
salt and ground black pepper
2 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
100 g hearts of palm, cut in ¼ inch rounds
100 g frozen peas (no need to defrost)
80 g cream cheese (full-fat)
fresh cilantro to taste
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup whole milk
Mix in a large bowl the 300g flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
Grate the butter using a food processor with a grating disk attachment. Toss it with 2 Tbsp flour and reserve.
Take 155 g of the grated butter and mix with the flour in the large bowl, tossing with your hands to form reasonably small crumbles. Keep the rest of the butter in the freezer. Add to the flour/butter mixture all the cold milk and half of the water. Make a smooth dough, trying to handle it as little as possible. Adjust with water and or more flour.
Roll it out as a rectangle, about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Add roughly 50 g of frozen grated butter to the center of the dough. Fold bottom half up, add 50 g more butter to the folded portion. Fold the top portion down, covering the butter. Turn the dough so that one open side is facing you. Roll it out as before, add the leftover grated butter exactly the same way. Fold and place in fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough as before, fold two more times without adding any more butter. Roll out as a rectangle and keep in fridge until filling is ready and cold.
Roll out about 1/3 of the dough (roughly 300 g) as a square a little bigger than 12 inches. Do the same for another third of the dough. Cut 12 squares from each piece of dough, punching a star using a cookie cutter in the center of half the squares (they will be the top of the pastry).
Place the squares that will be the bottom over parchment paper. Add enough cool chicken filling, brush the sides with egg wash, place the top pastry and push the edges to close it down. Brush the top with egg wash and bake at 400F for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.
FOR THE FILLING (can be made a couple of days in advance)
Poach the chicken breasts very gently in water seasoned with salt, pepper, soy sauce and lemon juice. I like to bring the water to almost a boil, turn the heat off, and leave the chicken in the pan for 15 minutes. Keep in mind it will cook longer in the pie. When chicken is poached and cool enough to handle, shred the meat with your fingers or a couple of forks. Reserve.
Sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil with a touch of salt and pepper in a large skillet until fragrant. Add the shredded chicken breast, tomatoes, tomato paste, hearts of palm pieces and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Dissolve the flour in the milk, whisking well to avoid lumps. Pour into the meat mixture and heat until it starts to thicken. Add the cream cheese, then the frozen peas and mix everything gently. Add the Sriracha sauce, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Add the minced cilantro, lemon juice and allow the mixture to cool completely before assembling the pastries.
Comments: The filling for these puff pastry squares is very similar to this one of my recent blogging past. It is a classic component of Brazilian recipes like pasteis, empadinhas and pies. The recipe will provide you with leftovers that you can enjoy over rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, or if you are truly daring, try it as a topping for pizza or flatbreads. Add a bit more cheese on top for good measure.
You will have a little bit of puff pastry leftover. You can cut in small squares, fill mini-muffin pans and play with other fillings like….
Mushroom duxelles! Or save in the freezer for future important experiments in the kitchen. It does freeze beautifully…
Today I finally share a recipe made for a very special reception hosted at our home a few months ago. These are simple to make in the food processor and have great texture. You know when you bite into a cracker and it feels kind of hard, but in 2.5 seconds it dissolves in your mouth releasing all sorts of enticing flavors? These are exactly it. The recipe I used was inspired by two sources, Fine Cooking and America’s Test Kitchen, you can certainly adapt it to your own taste. They are a bit spicy, so if you prefer to take the crackers into a different path, omit the cayenne, go for cumin or even some curry, that could be wonderful too. Most important thing is to use good quality Cheddar and Parmigiano cheeses because their flavors will be quite prominent in the crackers. I guarantee you will have no leftovers at the end of your party…
CHEDDAR CHEESE CRACKERS (inspired by ATK & Fine Cooking magazine)
1 cup extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 + 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
8 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces and kept cold
3 tablespoons water
Process cheddar, flour, cornstarch, salt, cayenne, and paprika in food processor until combined, about 30 seconds. Add butter and process until mixture resembles wet sand, about 20 seconds. Add water and process until dough ball forms, about 10 seconds. Transfer dough to counter and divide in half. Roll each half into 10-inch log, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap logs and slice into ¼-inch-thick coins. Place coins on prepared sheets, ½ inch apart. Bake until light golden around edges, 22 to 28 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let coins cool completely on sheets before serving.
Comments: It is easy to open several boxes of crackers to serve alongside cheeses and spreads. But nothing takes a cocktail party to another level like homemade crackers. And homemade bread, of course. These keep very well at room temperature inside a can, so you could prepare them in advance and impress that special group of friends stress-free. Wait for the question “What brand of crackers are these? They are so good!”. To that you follow with a short pause… and say as nonchalantly as possible… “These? Oh, these I made myself…” A little bit of Hollywood never hurt a cocktail party, trust me on that…
I shared these photos before, but I must say it gives me some pleasure to look at them again, thinking about the marathon of preparation I went through before the party…
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…
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.
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…
These crackers were part of the appetizers we served at a small dinner get-together. I’ve always wanted to re-visit crackers, as my first experience with them was pretty awesome. But way too long ago, this blog was just a baby back in September 2009. Fun times. These are completely different creatures, thick and flavorful, they stand by themselves without the need of any spread. The fact that you can make them ahead of time, then slice & bake is an added bonus. I am all for making my life easier when entertaining. Let me rephrase that. I am all for making my life easier. 😉
CHEDDAR AND FENNEL SEED CRACKERS
(adapted from the blog Lemons & Anchovies)
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (grated with a Microplane)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 + ¼ cups all-purpose flour
zest of 1 lemon
Pinch kosher salt
A pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for about one minute. With the mixer on low-speed, add the cheese, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and fennel seeds just until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer still in low-speed add the flour, and turn off the mixer once the mixture is in large crumbles, about one minute.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, press into a ball then roll it into a 9-inch log. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before slicing and baking.
When ready to bake, heat your oven to 350℉. Slice the dough into roughly 3/8-thick rounds and lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can sprinkle more fennel seeds on top of the rounds if you wish.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the cooking time, until very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack and serve at room temperature. They keep well in an airtight container for a few days.Makes about 24 rounds.
Comments: At first I had some trouble shaping the log of dough, and had to add a little more flour, but finally it all came together smoothly. These crackers have a shortbread feel, they crumble as you bite into them, and their flavor gets more and more pronounced as you chew them. The lemon zest definitely adds a lot, even though fennel and cheese are strong components in the overall taste. The basic recipe could be taken in many different directions with different cheeses and spices… I think that an experiment with a little bit of dried lavender could be quite interesting, but it might be tricky to pick the right cheese to go with it.
This was my first time baking this type of cracker. After slicing it would have been nice to smooth out the surface gently with the tip of the finger, particularly the edges. Something to consider for next time. Bake and learn, my friends, bake and learn…