the only vehicles allowed on the ancient cobbles of Paraty
The bus from Rio to Paraty seemed pretty sketchy, so at the last minute we talked a cool taxi driver into the 4 hr drive, it was a beautiful trip on the open road along the coast of Brazil. Our driver dropped us off at the edge of town, as the center allows no cars & he promised to be back in a week. We rented a 250 year old, two story house that was formally a sprawling casino with high ceilings and lots of big, cool, breezy windows. The kitchen was key, it was on the bottom floor, occasionally occupied by colorful, territorial crabs when the tide was high.
Paraty is like going back in time, first settled by the Portuguese in 1667, it sits on Brazil’s southeastern coast, 125 miles south of Rio, with the Bocaino Mountains at it’s back. The small colonial town is a national historic monument with well-preserved buildings on its deeply cobbled pedestrian-only streets.
We went exploring on one of the “flotillas” with Georgie, the Captain of the Paraisio; one of these adorable little private, wooden boats for rent that go out to the islands. The coves are perfect for swimming and snorkeling around with the turtles. We swam ashore to Vermelha and lunched on fried fish, beans and rice at a little cafe on the sand. You can explore sugarcane plantations and hike or take a train through the Atlantica Forest…..
But we chose cooking lessons from master chef Yara Castro Roberts, the first Brazilian chef to write about Brazilian cuisine in English; her book, “The Brazilian Table”, is unmatched. She shares an intimate look at the regions of Minas Gerais, the Amazon, the Cerado, and Bahia from a food perspective, providing an in-depth cultural lesson on the regions and their unique foods while her charming husband makes Caipirinhas. It was an intimate, academic and delicious adventure. Although she made many intriguing dishes I want to share with you the entree pictured above;
(steamed rice flour polenta with coconut milk)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/3 cup coconut milk
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ cup rice flour
½ cup heavy cream
In a large sauce pan, mix together the olive oil, coconut milk, milk, and salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the rice flour a little at a time, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth and thick (about 8 minutes)
Gradually add the cream and mix. Pour into a lightly oiled shallow ovenproof pan. Keep it at room temperature covered until ready to serve. Cut it into small circles and serve as a side dish. (serves 8)
It can be made the day before and just warm it before serving.
2 cups milk
1 loaf of bread cut into large pieces
2 cups onions cut into mirepoix
8 tomatoes peeled and seeded, cut into mirepoix
3 pounds of fish filet
2 pounds medium shrimp
2 cups of coconut milk
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic , peeled and finely sliced
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons of palm oil
½ cup peanut roasted thinly pounded
salt and pepper
Peel and clean the prawns. Place the shells in a sauce pan with 2 cups of water and boil for 5 minutes. Strain, reserve the liquid and discard the shells.
Season the fish with salt and lime juice and place in a roasting pan. Bake in moderate oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and reserve.
Heat the milk and salt and pepper. Place the bread in a bowl and pour over the sliced bread milk and shrimp broth. Soak until it softens.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions until they are transparent. Add the garlic stirring well. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Add the tomatoes and mix well. Add the softened bread and cook stirring for 5 minutes to prevent for sticking on the bottom of the pan. If it gets too thick add a little more milk or shrimp broth.
Place the coconut milk and boil slightly. Add the palm oil and cook for 10 minutes over low heat.
Add the shrimp and stir carefully so the vatapa doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Finally, add the filets of fish, cooking for another 5 minutes or so.
See you out there!
Lynette La Mere, Pure Joy Catering, Executive Chef
this is a quintessential peek into old Brazil, we just loved it there
Private manned flotillas can be rented for the day at a very reasonable price
there are countless exquisite little islands off the coast
Caipirinhas made with local cachaça (sugarcane hard liquor), sugar and lime
my son, Cougar, and the Chef
Brazilian love chilies, did you know thats where tabasco originated?
Acaçá (rice flour polenta made with coconut milk) by Master Chef Yara
Cooking lessons with Master Chef Yara and my Son, Cougar, Lucas is the Photographer
topped with fresh local fish Vatapá was very satisfying fare
Photos by Lucas Oliver Oswald and Richard Imagery