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Blame it on Rio: Can't say no to Brazil's Carnival food  July 15, 2016 – 03:04 pm
Brazilian Recipes -

Can't get away for Carnival? Well the flavors of Rio aren't so far away. From Feb. 18 through March 5 an estimated 2 million people will once again take to the streets of Rio de Janeiro for the longest, largest pre-Lenten party in the world. And Brazil's favorite foods are as essential to the festival as the voluptuous costumes and flamboyant dance steps. But you don't have to fly south for the food. From feijoada (black bean stew) to moqueca, (coconut fish stew) and so much more, the flavors of Brazil are within a short drive and they're a cinch to make in your own kitchen.

At Texas de Brazil in Schaumburg, classic moqueca de peixe com coco, or moqueca, a coconut fish stew, will be on the menu through March. Culinary Director Evandro Caregnato explained that moqueca is more popular in the northern parts of Brazil, where fish and coconut are more available.

Moqueca is extremely flavorful with touches of lemon juice and cilantro. "Cilantro is not a favorite ingredient of gauchos and rarely used in the gaucho cuisine, but in this dish, combined with the lemon, it provides a bright flavor, " Caregnato said. "The coconut milk provides a delicious aroma while azeite de dende (palm tree oil) gives the dish a lovely golden color."

But as Caregnato point out, Carnival time is rarely a time to eat at home. "Carnival in Brazil is not a holiday centered around tables of food at home such as Thanksgiving, " he said. "Instead, people are out celebrating and choosing a variety of food available through street vendors such as churrasquinho."

Churrasquinho is like a kabob. It is a combination of winter squash, chicken, beef sirloin, pork, kielbasa, bacon, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions, all served on a bed of rice. Churrasquinho isn't on the Texas de Brazil menu, but it is simple to make.

And then there is empadão de frango. Simply put: Brazilian chicken pot pie. Empadão de frango is just like a classic American chicken pot pie, but it's usually meatier and with a dryer filling. Still, it is creamy and plump-full of shredded white chicken meat. The pot pies can be served warm or at room temperature, making them ideal for a Carnival party. "Empadão de frango is one of my favorite foods for Carnival, " said Edilson Lima. Lima, who grew up in Brazil, is a choreographer and dancer with Chicago Samba and Samba 1 Brazilian Dance Group. He also helps fitness enthusiasts shake off Carnival calories during Fitness Brazil, which is the samba dance exercise class he leads at Uptown Fitness in Chicago.


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