To look good in their infamously skimpy bikinis, food-loving Brazilians must watch what they eat. So it is no surprise that in her recent cookbook, The Brazilian Kitchen, Letitia Moreinos Schwartz, a Braziliera from Ipanama, offers lighter versions of popular Brazilian dishes while still giving them alluring flavor.
Brazilian cooking remains one of the least known, and most interesting, cuisines thanks to its combination of Portuguese, African and native Indian influences. Its unfamiliarity comes from the lack of a significant Brazilian population in the United States. This also explains why unique ingredients that some dishes require are almost unavailable.
“I fix the heaviness and use simple-to-find ingredients,” Schwartz says. The way she does this with one of Brazil’s elemental dishes, a stew called feijoada (fey-zhoo-ah-dah), is a perfect example. Instead of the fatty pork Brazilians normally use, Schwartz uses chicken. Skinless thighs are ideal, but I find that bone-in breast works well, too.
I also streamlined the cooking time in my version of Brazilian Chicken and Black Beans by using canned beans rather than dried. In addition to saving time, this lets me prepare the dish to serve four rather than the huge potful that Schwartz cooks up to feed a crowd.
A perfect dish for a convivial summer supper, see how the bay leaf and allspice used in the stew, and fresh oranges served with it, make this feijoada samba with Brazilian flavor.
Brazilian Chicken with Black Beans
2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
2 lb. skinless chicken thighs with bone or skinless breast with ribs or combination
½ cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1¼ cups chopped onion
¾ cup chopped celery
¾ cup chopped green bell pepper
¾ cup chopped scallions, green and white parts
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 (15 oz. cans) black beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 large navel orange, cut in 6 wedges
In large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, 4 minutes on each side. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large bowl. Cover bowl with foil. Add broth and scrap bottom of pot while it boils, gathering up all browned bits. Add broth to chicken. Seal foil tightly over bowl and set chicken aside. Using paper towel, wipe out pot.
Return pot to medium-high heat and add remaining oil. Add onion, celery, green pepper and scallions to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add bay leaves and sprinkle nutmeg over vegetables. Arrange chicken pieces over vegetables, reserving liquid in bowl. Spread beans over the chicken. Pour liquid from bowl over beans. Cover and simmer until chicken thighs are falling-apart tender, 30-35 minutes. If using breast, cook until white in center at thickest part, 20-25 minutes.
To serve, divide chicken among six dinner plates. Remove bay leaf. Mix to combine beans and vegetables, and season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne. Spoon two-thirds cup of beans and vegetables alongside chicken and liquid from pot over chicken. Garnish with parsley and orange wedges. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Leftovers keep in tightly covered container in refrigerator for 4 days.
Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 330 calories, 10 g total fat, (1.5 g saturated fat), 28 grams carbohydrates, 32 grams protein, 9 grams dietary fiber, 180 mg sodium.
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