Here is one of our favourite Caranguejo (crab) recipes from one of Fortaleza’s top chefs, Bernard Twardy. Thanks to his European-Brazilian ancestry he has come up with the perfect risotto-style combination of Arborio rice and fresh green peas and adding locally caught crab, Brazilians herbs and spices, and livening the dish with coconut milk, he has created something that certainly is not Venetian, but not entirely Brazilian either. Whatever else it is, though, it’s absolutely delicious.
RECIPE – Risi e Bisi of Crab (Risi Pisi de Caranguejo)
1 pound picked-over fresh or thawed crab meat
2 cups (500 ml) coconut milk
3 cups (750 ml) cooked orzo pasta, al dente, cooled to room temperature
2 cups (500 ml) ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup (250 ml) mixed green and yellow bell peppers, finely diced
1/2 cup (250 ml) strongly brewed lemon balm infusion
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup (250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp habanero chile, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
crab claws to decorate
salt to taste
Heat half the olive oil in a large sauté pan, add half the garlic and all of the onion, and sweat them for a few minutes. Add the chopped bell peppers and habanero chile and continue to cook the mixture for about three minutes, or until the peppers have softened. Add the tomatoes, the coconut milk and the lemon balm infusion and cook for about five more minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened, but not dissolved. Remove from heat and reserve.
In a medium saucepan heat the remaining olive oil, then add the remaining garlic. Cook until the garlic is softened, then add the crab meat and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat. Add the reserved tomato mixture, and let stand at room temperature for at least one hour, covered. Combine the crab/tomato mixture with the orzo pasta, and correct seasoning for salt. Mound the mixture into a decorative serving bowl, decorate with a sprinkling of finely chopped cilantro plus crab claws if desired and serve.