Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brazilian Shredded Chicken Croquettes (Coxinhas) and Padarias (Bakeries)

As I've mentioned before, Brazilians are very fond of snacking. Perhaps because dinner is traditionally eaten late, people always grab a bite in the afternoon. You can always find a bakery that sells not only breads, pastries and sweets, but which also includes a café selection of sandwiches, snack and good drinks. These are also popular places for breakfast on the go.

These bakeries/cafes also serve traditional savory snacks called “salgadinhos," which are very popular among Brazilians and include pão de queijo (bite-size cheese puffs made with tapioca starch), rissoles, empadinhas (bite-size pies made of buttery crust) and even snacks of Lebanese origin that have become very traditional in Brazilian cuisine, quibes and esfihas (kibbeh abd sfiha).

But the queen of salgadinhos, very popular among Brazilians of all ages is coxinha, shredded chicken enclosed in dough shaped to resemble a chicken drumstick (coxa, and from there coxinhas or small coxa) and deep fried.

Although it may sound complicated, coxinhas are quite easy to make especially once you get the hang of shaping them. So don’t be intimidated by them and make some to be served as a snack or even hor d'oeuvres at a party (make them smaller, bite-size).

Coxinhas (Brazilian Shredded Chicken Croquettes)

Makes about 30 snack-size coxinhas

1 chicken breast
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
2 tomatoes
Finely chopped parsley
5 to 6 cups of Chicken stock (or water and halal chicken bouillon and bay leaves)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt, pepper and spices of choice
Optional: a pinch of turmeric or some other kind of colorant for chicken

4 cups of all purpose flour (about 500 g)
4 cups of chicken stock where chicken for filling was cooked
1 ½ to 2 Tbsp of butter
Salt to taste

To Fry:

Make the filling

Cook chicken breast in chicken stock (or water, halal chicken and a couple of bay leaves). After cooked shred chicken very fine.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sauté onion and crushed garlic. Add shredded chicken, tomatoes and colorant/turmeric (optional). Add salt as needed and any spices you like. Keep mixing with a wooden spoon until mixture is completely dry of all moisture being careful not to burn. Set aside to cool completely

Make the dough

Boil 4 cups of chicken stock, butter and salt as needed. When stock is boiling, add 4 cups of flour and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until dough is smooth and loosens from the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool.

Molding, coating and deep frying

Take a portion of the dough, making a ball about the size of a ping pong ball. Flatten ball in your hand making a disk, the thinner the disk the less doughy your coxinha will turn out. Put some filling in the middle of the disk and close disk, bundling filling in the middle and making a drop (drumstick) shape with the edges. Smooth outside surface if needed with wet hands making sure filling is well sealed inside. Don’t worry too much if there are imperfections on the outside dough as they will be hidden after coating them.

After your coxinhas are shaped, prepare a small bowl with milk, and one with the breadcrumbs. Dip coxinhas in milk, remove and coat them with breadcrumbs. Pat to remove excess bread crumbs. You want a very thin layer of it.

Deep-fry coxinhas in hot oil until golden brown. Remove and place over paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Serve immediately.

Variations: Add a drop of cream cheese inside your coxinha when putting the filling for cream cheese-filled coxinhas.

Freezing: Arrange molded and coated coxinhas in a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer. After frozen, transfer them to a zip lock.

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