Thursday, June 3, 2010

Coxinha: the beloved queen of Brazilian salgadinhos

Brazilian salgados or salgadinhos - savory little snacks you can eat at any time of the day you are not hungry enough for a complete meal - comprise dozens of categories, such as empada (also called empadinha), risoles, pastel, quibe, esfiha, croquete, bolinha de queijo, enrolado, folhado, pão de batata, and their several variations (i.e., most of them can be prepared with different fillings). But coxinhas are among the favorite ones. They can be found in nearly all lanchonetes and padarias in Brazil and were very popular at birthday parties some time ago.  

The name coxinha derives from the snack’s peculiar drop shape, mocking a chicken drumstick (which, in Portuguese, is curiously called “coxa” [= thigh] only when referring to chickens; the chicken thigh is called sobrecoxa...). The golden, crispy exterior of this salgadinho surrounds a layer of soft dough filled with lightly seasoned, moist shredded chicken. Some people love to eat them dotting each bite with some good hot red pepper sauce.

The major “secret” to prepare coxinhas is patience. It takes a while to mold them, especially if it’s your first time. Be careful not to let the filling touch the edges of the dough disc, and make sure it is well sealed around the filling, or it will crack open when fried. Coxinhas can be molded as big, individual pieces (virtually a meal), or bite-sized. 

The cooked dough is very easy to prepare, as well as the filling. The dough can also be used to make other salgadinhos, such as risoles (half-moon shapped) and bolinhas de queijo (cheese balls). Use fine bread crumbs (grind some panko in the processor, if you wish) to bread them and, instead of dropping them in the egg white, dip your hand in it and use it spread a layer of egg white on the surface of coxinhas before tossing them in the breadcrumbs.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Coxinha de frango
(mock chicken drumsticks)

2 cups chicken stock
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp powdered milk
2 Tbsp butter (room temperature)
1 tsp salt

1. Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
2. Cook in a heavy pan, over medium heat, stirring constantly until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan (make sure there are not wet spots in the dough).
3. Let it cool and use to mold the coxinhas

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp grated onion
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp colorau or anatto powder
2 boneless chicken breast halves
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 Tbsp finely chopped scallion
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cook chicken in about 3 cups water. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid to prepare the dough.
2. Finely shred chicken.
3. Heat oil in a saucepan, add onion, then garlic and then colorau. Fry until golden brown.
4. Add shredded chicken and about 3 Tbsp cooking liquid - the chicken should be moist, but not runny.
5. Turn off the heat and add chopped herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Molding and frying
1 egg white
1 cup plain panko, finely ground, or fine breadcrumbs
2-3 cups vegetable oil, for frying

1. Take a portion of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll it out manually or with a rolling pin into a disk about 1/4 in. thick.
2. Place a teaspoonful of filling at the center - be careful not to let the filling touch the edges of the dough. Carefully mold the dough around the filling forming a bundle.
3. Twist the excess dough on top and remove it to obtain a drop shape.
4. Smooth the surface, if necessary, to correct any imperfections. Make sure the filling is well sealed into the dough.
5. Wet your hand in the egg white and spread a thin layer on the coxinha surface and dip in breadcrumbs.
6. Fry in hot oil until golden brown. Let drain on paper towels.