During the World Cup, I attempted to recreate some Brazilian street foods in my own kitchen. My dear friend Camilla turned me on to a few websites that featured Brazilian snacks, including those likely served to beer-swilling football fans. I only got around to empadinhas, but had to leave salt cod fritters on the backburner, mostly because real salt cod wasn't the easiest find in Athens, Ga. Here's what I came up with for these wild Georgia shrimp empadinhas, published last month in the Athens Banner-Herald.
The question was simple: If, by some dumb luck, I happened to be in Rio de Janeiro this summer, ambling about on my way to watch a World Cup match, what would I be snacking on? What would soak up all that Brahma beer?
My closest friend from Brazil, the host country for this year’s international soccer championship, had an easy answer. Salgadinhos are small, often fried, savory bites pairing proteins and dough. They’re popular and available everywhere.
Types of salgadinhos are many: coxinhas (deep-fried chicken croquettes), quibe (beef and bulgur wheat fried croquettes, a bit like a Middle Eastern snack), or esifha (a pizza-like bread topped with meat and cheese).
Two others caught my eye: bolinho de bacalhau (salt cod fritters that we’ll explore next week) and empadinhas, small fried pies filled with, among many other possibilities, shrimp.
Empadinhas are small empanadas. There’s not much difference in preparation, though these Brazilian treats are baked, not fried.
This summertime World Cup hubbub coincides with the opening of our commercial shrimp season, meaning wild Georgia shrimp is now available at grocery stores. Not to harsh on our globalized soccer buzz, but given the recent Guardian investigation into the Asian shrimp industry’s connection to human exploitation and murder, buying domestic and wild shrimp is the least jerky thing to do for your fellow earth travelers.
This recipe creates half-moon shaped empadinhas. Other delivery options include using a muffin tin to make small pies with a top and bottom dough. Or make square-shaped empadinhas using two equal-sized pieces with the filling layered between like a sandwich.
My main problem with empadinhas, and empanadas for that matter, is dryness. It’s important to keep the filling moist, of course, but even still, the final product can taste a little arid. I recommend making a little extra filling to top your empadinhas, or serve with a fresh salsa. Oh, and one final thing (no offense to Brazilians): Allez les Bleus.
For the dough:
2 C. all-purpose flour
8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 eggs, beaten, plus one egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp salt
For the filling:
6-8 clove garlic, depending on size, minced
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 lb. wild Georgia shrimp, cleaned and peeled.
10 sprigs worth of thyme
10 chive blades, chopped
salt to taste
1/2 tsp white pepper
3 Tbsp tomato paste plus 2 Tbsp. water, or 1/2 cup tomato pulp
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sift flour into medium size mixing bowl. Add salt. Mix in chunks of butter by hand until distributed evenly. Whisk eggs and mix into flour and salt mixture. Knead until firm. Add extra flour if dough is too wet. Set aside for 30 minutes.
While dough rests, prepare filling. Chop shrimp into small, 1/2-inch pieces. In a small pan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil at medium heat. Scrape thyme buds off sprig into pan. Add shrimp and cook until meat turns white. Add tomato paste, or pulp, and water. Stir to coat the shrimp. Add chives and cook one minute longer. Set aside to cool.
Set oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out dough onto floured surface. Roll as thin as possible, to 1/8-inch if dough allows. Use three-inch biscuit cutter or wide-mouth Mason jar lid to cut out circular shapes. Add spoonful of filling onto middle of dough circle. Fold dough over to make a half-moon shape. Use fork to press together seam. This can be messy; the filling can ooze out. Remember, moist is better. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Fill baking sheet with empadinhas, but do not let them touch. Brush whisked egg yolk on tops of empadinhas. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool and serve. Top empadinhas with extra filling.