Don't let the World Cup sneak up on you without a few recipes from My Rio de Janiero, by renowned cook and author Leticia Moreinos Schwartz. A follow-up to her first book, The Brazilian Kitchen, My Rio de Janiero explores the city's diverse cuisine by neighborhood. These crispy, cheesy fritters are a must-try in your own kitchen, too.
Zuka is a very versatile restaurant: whatever purpose — business lunch, romantic date, dinner with friends — it fits the occasion. The menu sprinkles exotic Brazilian ingredients with dishes that are internationally familiar. I was interviewing Chef Ludmilla Soeiro for my blog when I first tried these crunchy tapioca fritters. I couldn’t get over how remarkably delicious they were and couldn’t wait to try the recipe at home. I made them with Parmesan, cured and grated Minas cheese, Brazilian coalho cheese and Greek haloumi. My favorite is Parmesan, but they all produce a great fritter. Ludmilla told me that she learned this recipe from Chef Rodrigo Oliveira, based in São Paulo — proving that good recipes travel fast.
- 1 1/3 cups finely grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon small tapioca pearls
- 1 cup whole milk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch of paprika
- 2 cups vegetable oil for frying
- Line a small baking dish with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang on all sides. Be sure it’s deep enough to hold the batter.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cheese and tapioca.
- In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
- Pour the hot milk over the tapioca and mix with a rubber spatula; the tapioca will immediately start to release starch and the dough will become thick and pasty.
- Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika.
- Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Immediately cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
- Let cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.
- Pour the vegetable oil into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat to 350°F, as measured by a deep-fat thermometer.
- Unmold the tapioca dough onto a cutting board.
- Using a long knife, trim the edges and cut the dough into neat 1-inch cubes.
- Fry the tapioca cubes in batches, adding only as many as will fit without touching.
- Turn occasionally with a long slotted spoon, preventing them from sticking together, until evenly browned on all sides, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
- Continue working in batches until all the fritters are fried. Serve immediately.
Cooking tip: You can bake these in a 350°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, but frying brings the best crispness to the plate. Serve them with red pepper jam on the side if you like.
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