October 2013 Cookbooks of the Month, THE FOOD OF PORTUGAL and THE NEW PORTUGUESE TABLE: Meats; Poultry
Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from the October Cookbooks of the Month:
Meats (The Food of Portugal), pages 123 - 152
Poultry (The Food of Portugal), pages 153 - 166
Meats (The New Portuguese Table), pages 131- 154
Poultry (The New Portuguese Table), pages 109 - 130
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Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Coconut Sauce (The New Portuguese Table), p. 116
According to the introduction to the recipe, this dish was influenced by the flavors of Africa and Asia, but its spices and the addition of tomato paste also reminded me of the flavors of Chicken Tikka Masala. Chicken breasts are marinated in an aromatic coconut milk mixture, resulting in extremely tender meat, then served with a spicy sauce.
The marinade consists of onion, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and coconut milk. The chicken marinates from 4 hours to overnight (I let them marinate overnight), before being grilled. The sauce is prepared just before the chicken goes on the grill, using many of the same ingredients as the marinade: onions, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon peel are sauteed, coconut milk and cream are added, and the mixture is reduced by 1/4. In fact, I'm sure the sauce could be made ahead, even at the same time you're making the marinade, as the ingredients for both are virtually identical. The sauce could then be reheated just before serving. The sauce ingredients can be adjusted to suit your taste; one teaspoon of red pepper flakes was plenty of heat for me, but I would have appreciated a bit more ginger, garlic and lemon.
I forgot to purchase chives, and because the sauce had plenty of red pepper, decided to garnish the grilled chicken slices with marash pepper instead. The meat was not only juicy but also quite flavorful and delicious from the marinade ingredients. A punch of heat and creaminess comes from the sauce, which also mingles well with (in this case) jasmine rice. I served Seared Broccoli Rabe (from the same book, p.169) alongside, which was an especially nice color and flavor contrast.
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Coconut Sauce (The New Portuguese Table), page 116.
I am posting my photos, but if you want to see a pretty version of this dish, I suggest you view lesliej's photo above.
I started marinating the chicken breasts the night before, so they were in over 24 hours. Mr. NS grilled them in the big egg. The coconut milk we purchased for the marinade and the sauce was like no other I've ever used. It was 100% solid, no liquid at all. Consequently, the sauce was a bit thick, and not very attractive. But the taste was wonderful! With the long marinade, the chicken really absorbed the flavors. For a side, I cooked some peas with leeks and saffron.
We had some leftover chicken without the sauce, and Mr. "I hate leftovers" Nightshade remarked on how delicious it was the next day.
I have to say that this dish wasn't what I imagined to be Portuguese flavors. We certainly see Portuguese influence in dishes from around the world, and it only makes sense that there would also be some cross-pollination.
Momma Leite's Braised Beef in Wine and Garlic (New Portuguese Table p. 146)
This recipe is basically pot roast, with the addition of an overnight marinade and some linguica. I used a lovely boneless chuck roast, which is the called-for cut.
I had two beefs (ha!) with the recipe. One, the "Portuguese" additions to the basic pot roast formula didn't contribute much to the overall flavor - the end dish didn't taste much different from regular pot roast. I didn't have sweet paprika, only smoked, so used a little more smoked than was called for (the recipe calls for both types) and also was generous with the linguica. However, in the entire bottle of red wine that is called for in the marinade, the few tablespoons of paprika was totally lost. Ditto with the red pepper flakes. The linguica I was using was fresh and not cured (shopping error, I grabbed the wrong thing) so I grilled a few links first, then added them to the roast in large pieces when indicated. However, the linguica didn't contribute much to the dish. It tasted great on its own, but the flavor didn't really seep into the other ingredients. The beef ended up tasting pretty ordinary; I had been hoping for a more "Portuguese" flavor profile.
My second issue was with the braising instructions. I am, admittedly, very bad at braising, and have just recently started cooking through Molly Stevens' book. With the little bit of exposure to Stevens' method, I thought the oven temp seemed too high, for one - he calls for 325F - and there seemed to be way too much liquid in the pot. He says to use all of the marinade as the braising liquid, plus some water. I knew that would drown my roast, so I used only half of the marinade. That still came halfway up the side of the roast, which the little voice in my head said was still too high. Should have listened! It was indeed, as the roast gave off a bunch of liquid and I ended up removing a bunch mid-way through the cooking process to get the level back down.
Also, I'm not sure why the recipe calls for turning and basting every 20 minutes. I don't think Stevens' recipes require that at all, and every time you go in you lose the precious heat that's accumulated in your pot. I didn't turn as often as he wanted - I turned every 45 minutes or so. At the end, between too much liquid in the pot, too high of a temperature, and releasing the heat every time I went it to turn it - the meat didn't come out tender at all. It was very tough.
If I did this again, I'd do several things differently. One, I'd up the amounts of spices called for in the marinade. I'd try fresh oregano instead of dried - maybe that would have contributed more to the overall flavor. I'd use a much lower oven temperature, probably closer to 275. I'd only use as much of the marinade as was required to come a third of the way up the roast, and then I wouldn't touch it for at least 2 hours (when you then go in and add the linguica and veggies). Those changes might result in a more successful dish.
Aravisea, I'm so sorry the recipe didn't live up to your expectations. I always hate when that happens, especially when you buy expensive ingredients.
I do know that the dish is very Portuguese inflected--or let me say, Azorean inflected--especially with the right kind of sausage and the right level of heat (spice).
In Portuguese cuisine, there is no such thing as fresh chouriço or linguinça. All of it is heavily smoked. (My aunt makes our family's sausage, but there are some very good places that sell it on the Internet.) Being smoked, it adds a lot of flavor and spice to the dish.
There is so much information in the front of the book about these ingredients which, of course, is missing when recipes are posted on the Internet.
A few questions:
1. Did you use double concentrate tomato paste? If not, did you use 6 tablespoons of regular paste?
2. The recipe in the book calls for fresh oregano; that might help.
3. The recipe in the book also says to use more than 1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes, if you wish. That would amp up the flavor.
4. As far as too much liquid in the pot, it depends upon the size of the pot. A wider pot will allow for a lower liquid depth. And the turning and basting is my mom's way of making sure all of it stays moist.
5. Also, how was your salting? That always brings out a punch of flavor.
One of the most important steps is removing the beef from the liquid and reducing it down to a thick sauce--what Azorean cooks call molho. It's in that reducing that all flavors concentrate.
One of the things you *can't* say in a book is "use the fattiest piece of chuck you can find." !! The fattier, better-marbled beef will turn out a more tender piece, as you know.
But you've given me some good food for thought. I'm going to make this again (haven't made it in a while), paying particular attention to your comments. Perhaps there's something I learn.
re: David Leite
David, Thank you so much for your feedback! I am not great at braising so your comments are very helpful. I did use double-concentrate tomato paste. It's possible I did not salt enough - I was worried about over-salting, but maybe I didn't have to be worried? And, maybe my chuck roast wasn't marbled enough. I'll look for better marbling next time. Although I forgot to mention it when I wrote my review, the broth was really good - we mopped it up with chunks of crusty bread. I could have made a whole meal just on that.
I am still confused about linguica, though. I got my linguica from a small grocery in my area that specializes in Portuguese and Brazilian products, and the sausage I got was sold to me as pork linguica. (They had chicken linquica as well.) It's definitely raw, though, and not smoked - a picture is attached. I wonder if it was mislabeled? Or if the Brazilians do linguica differently, and what I got was Brazilian linguica and not Portuguese? I plan to visit the market again, so I will ask for smoked linguica next time.
Thanks again for your help!
Aravisea, MeIMM, is exactly right. It's Brazilian. In all my time cooking Portuguese, I've never come across it--but I shop in heavily Portuguese-populated areas.
Here's a picture of chouriço--smoked Portuguese sausage. A great, great place to buy it is Lopes Sausage Co. in Newark, NJ. (973) 344-3063. (If you order, tell the owner Hermino Lopes that I sent you there.) The prices are reasonable....but when you factor in shipping it can get pricy.
If you make this again, try a lower temperature. It's not how my family makes it, but your oven could be running hot. Try 300°--that might make a difference.
And if you have questions before you make it, drop me a line at email@example.com and I we can set up a phone call. How's that?
Partridges with Cabbage, Pg. 162, The Food of Portugal
Perdizes com Couve
This is an old Portuguese recipe that is suitable for many game birds and, as Ms Anderson says, the result of the unusual cooking method is a very tender and succulent bird. I made two substitutions: the alternative suggestion Cornish hens instead of partridges, and pancetta and chopped giblets for the chorico. I do realize my choice for the chorico is nothing like the real thing but with a little extra seasoning it really wasn't too far off, surprisingly. I used two small hens but kept the full amounts of the seasonings.
The gist of the recipe entails a blanching till pliable of large outer leaves of a green cabbage which then become a wrapping for seasoned and browned small game birds. The leaves completely wrap each bird and the package is tied with butcher's twine. These packages are settled into a pan in which lies rendered chorico bits, then tawny port and broth are poured over. The pan is covered and set into a pre-heated 350F oven to roast about an hour or more.
To serve the twine is carefully removed, the leaf wrapped birds are plated with a "wreath" of small potatoes and baby carrots. I seamed small red potatoes and purple carrots, with a few broccoli and cauliflower florets. Whatever sauce there may be is ladled over all. Quite pretty, if I do say so.
The tricky part here is to get leaves large enough to use just two for each bird so the wrap is like a gift wrap. The cabbage was smaller than I should have used but that's what was at the market. Nevertheless 3 leaves were sufficient. Another thing is to season the birds aggressively as that's all except for chorico that's used. In retrospect I could have used pimenton as well, and slightly more salt & pepper over the wrapped birds in the pot.
The hens were juicy and tender, subtle but quite nice in a comfort food kind of way. The cabbage was sweet and I found that I liked the taste never having eaten boiled cabbage leaves. (I usually stir-fry, braise, or use them for slaw) To be honest I have to say G didn't like this dish as much as I did. He likes bolder flavors. I'd make it again but he probably wouldn't want me to.
Grilled Skewers of Beef with Garlic and Bay Leaves, The Food of Portugal, p. 125.
I was looking forward to my grilled tenderloin having loads of flavor from the garlic and bay leaf marinade, but it didn't seem to permeate the meat, even after letting it all marinate the full 24 hours.
I cubed about a pound of beef tenderloin and cut the marinade ingredients by half (melted butter, olive oil, crushed bay leaves, garlic slivers, and salt & pepper). The mixture had a heavenly aroma after 24 hours in the refrigerator and another two at room temperature, but we simply ended up with grilled meat that was very juicy. There wasn't much extra marinade to brush over the skewered beef (it soaked in, I suppose), so I just rubbed the little that remained in the dish over the meat before cooking.
I would need to modify the recipe if I were to try it again - using crushed garlic instead of slivered, and more bay leaves.
Mini Lamb Meatballs (The New Portuguese Table, p 150)
This was a case of the ingredients I had on hand choosing the recipe rather than vice-versa. I've had a pound of ground lamb in my freezer for a few months and I wanted to use it up. This recipe calls for 2 lbs, so I made half the recipe.
Basically, you make meatballs from ground lamb, bread crumbs, egg, garlic, fresh ginger, orange zest, sweet paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cilantro, salt, and pepper.
The meatballs are browned in olive oil.
You then make a sauce which has onion, bay leaf, garlic, flour, cumin, cinnamon, cilantro, white wine, beef stock, salt, and pepper. The meatballs are added back to the sauce to heat through.
I made a few substitutions to work around ingredients that I didn't have. I used lemon zest instead of orange zest, chicken stock instead of beef stock, and parsley instead of cilantro.
This was a quick and easy recipe and the meatballs had a nice flavor. If I made them again, I'd reduce the amount of cinnamon slightly as mine was quite strong.
Mini Lamb Meatballs, The New Portuguese Table; p.150.
I also halved the recipe, which made three very generous servings, accompanied the meatballs with coconut-ginger rice, and sprinkled over some marash pepper along with the cilantro to provide a bit of heat. The fragrant seasonings did indeed give the lamb a very nice flavor but I think, for me, the lamb needed just a bit more (especially the orange/garlic/ginger). The sauce provides a light coating, just enough to glaze the tiny meatballs, which, along with the ease of putting the recipe together as stockholm mentioned, would definitely make these a great hors d'oeuvre as well.