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Casquinha de Siri

Looking over Caribbean or Central American recipes, it’s no longer necessary to seek out Latin American markets or bodegas in search of specialty items.  Increasingly popular, all grocery stores are now Latin American bodegas (or at least have a booming selection of Goya products).  I could also order absolutely anything online but it doesn’t compare to finding it in a newly discovered shop or even better, bringing back a longed for ingredient from a trip.  Portuguese and Brazilian recipes pose there own challenges.  Too often lumped in with the rest of South America, it’s a combination of indigenous, Portuguese, and African influences whose unique ingredients can put it just out of everyday reach.  I can find guajillo chiles or aji amarillo within few blocks of my house but I have yet to come across dendê oil or malagueta peppers by chance, making it that much more exciting to find farina de mandioca on the lower east side.

With an extra pound of fresh crab meat from a soup set back, I knew I wanted to finally try one of the incredible Brazilian seafood recipes I’m always skirting around.  I decided on Leticia Moreinos Schwartz’s Casquinhas de Siri from The Brazilian Kitchen.  I met Leticia at the Gourmet Latino Festival this summer and have loved her book (click here for the brigadeiros I tried).  Bringing together recipes from her upbringing in Rio with her training at the French Culinary Institute and experience in New York restaurants, she deftly moves between traditional and contemporary recipes, making both accessible.

For once, I had almost all the ingredients I needed so there was no need for last minute run to Manhattan’s Little Brazil (though I do love going there).  A combination of sauteed green and yellow peppers sauteed with onions and simmered with garlic, tomatoes, coconut, and crab that’s sprinkled with manioc flour, it’s every good thing packed into a seashell.  Set over Maldon salt as Leticia suggests, they give the impression of being just below the water’s surface but well within reach.

Casquinha de Siri/Stuffed Crab Shells
Recipe from The Brazilian Kitchen by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, printed with permission. I’ve always been drawn to recipes that transform shells into serveware – pumkins, pineapples and now sea creatures.  Leticia used scallop shells but crab and clam shells also work  The guys at Fish Tales, in my neighborhood, were nice enough to set aside extra-large clam shells which worked perfectly.  If you prefer, porcelain ramekins can also be substituted.

1 cup diced white bread (about 2 slices)
1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onions, about half an onion
½ cup diced yellow peppers, about half a pepper
½ cup diced green peppers, about half a pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 cloves
½ cup diced tomatoes (about 2 tomatoes)
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp Old Bay seasoning

For the crust:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup manioc flour
¼ cup grated Parmesan (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Maldon Sea Salt or kosher salt for presentation

Prepare the Crab Filling:
Trim the crust from the bread and discard.  Dice the bread handling it lightly, so the pieces remain fluffy.  Place the diced bread in a bowl, pour the coconut milk over, and let it soak for 10 to 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

Pick over the crab meat to remove any excess shell and set it aside.

In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over low heat.  Add the onion and the yellow and green peppers and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until they are soft and tender.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until it is tender.  Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute, until they get hot.  Add the wine and let half of it evaporate, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the bread and coconut milk together.  Add the grated coconut.  Cook, stirring, until everything starts blending together, about 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the crab, mustard, and lemon juice.  Fold everything together using a wooden spoon.  Some pieces of crab will naturally shred, but try to keep some big lumps as well.  Add the butter and cilantro.

Season the crab mixture with salt, pepper, and Old Bay.  At this point the crab mixture should look colorful, soft, well mixed and feel very moist.  If your mixture looks dry, don’t hesitate to add one or two tablespoons of liquid like coconut milk, or wine.

Transfer everything to a bowl and let it cool completely.  This can be done up to two days ahead and kept in a container with a tight-fitting cover in the refrigerator.

Prepare the crust:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.

Add the manioc flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, toasting the flour until it reaches a light golden color. This is a step during which you cannot take your eyes off the pan, otherwise the manioc flour might burn.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Let it cool for 5 minutes at room temperature.  Add the Parmesan (if using) and mix it in evenly.

Assemble and bake the crab shells.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Using an ice-cream scoop to measure out equal portions, scoop the crab mixture into the shells and press it down so it fits into the shape of the shell. Repeat until all the filling is used.  Spread a thin coat of crust onto the filling.

Place the stuffed shells onto a sheet pan and bake in the oven until the filling is hot and the crust is a light golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.

Place a small pile of Maldon Sea Salt on the bottom of a soup plate and place the shell on top.

Makes 6 to 8 stuffed shells.

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. These look so elegant, and delicious of course.

    29 October 2010
  2. Alberto #

    I tried them in Rio and LOVED them!! These are a must!

    29 October 2010
  3. these were awesome!

    29 October 2010
  4. This recipe looks incredibly delicious! I think these would make an elegant appetizer for a dinner party. Unfortunately, crab meat is not very popular here in my corner of Argentina, so that would likely be the most difficult ingredient to lay my hands on!

    30 October 2010

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