Saturday, September 8

Reflections on Brazil + Strozzapreti and Buttered Chicken

Hello friends! I have been back from Brazil for about a week and still adjusting. I got over the jet lag quickly since the time difference is only 4 hours ahead of PST time but I still have mental jet lag. I jumped right back into a busy schedule and am trying to catch up with reality. Food pictures from Brazil still need to be organized before I can blog about it. In the mean time, I share with you my general reflections on Brazilian food, culture, and business.

My first meals in Brazil were overly salty, creamy, sugary, and fatty. 2 cities and many restaurants later, I have eaten nothing but all the above flavors at intense degrees. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and juices which were mostly delicious. If you want a meal though, expect to be overwhelmed by most of the menu options. Meat and cheese is everywhere and it is in everything, even in a baked pastry for breakfast. Traskerias, the famous Brazilian buffets, are delicious if you really love meat. There are other options too but its really all about the meats. A homemade Brazilian meal usually includes rice and beans. Salads come in small portions with no dressing or dressing on the side or soaking in dressing. Sometimes the elements of the salad are separated, ie. a bed of greens with a pile of shredded beets and a pile of shredded carrots with no dressing. Is this a mix it yourself situation? I conclude that they don't have a good grasp of the salad as an entree concept. Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan so there were quite a few sushi restaurants. However,their population of other Asian ethnicities was very low so there were few options for other Asian cuisine. I also came back really craving soup that didn't come in a creamed pea or creamed vegetable version.

All the above aspects of their food really resonate the elements of lifestyle and culture. Brazil is always awake. They rise early and stay out late, especially in Rio de Janeiro. Their personalities are outgoing and vivacious. They work hard, play hard, and love passionately. PDA is very common and couples are making out any and everywhere you look. The fashions are colorful and flashy. Tight bright pants, showing lots of skin, dental floss bikinis!!! A very proud and confident culture with very friendly people. They don't care if you don't know the language, just that you try to communicate. Of course there are transexul prostitutes in certain dark alleyways and cab drivers that rip you off, but overall I can't say I've seen the "true Brazil" yet to comment on these things. I was surprised to find that the night market merchants did not bargain even if you try the walking away tactic.

Our class visited various companies of different industries. Surprisingly, Brazil functions much like America in the business world, WITH a few key differences. There are prevailing issues in government that are far messier than what we know. Many of these issues affect business functions, limit their growth, and prevent companies from starting. The corporate culture dislikes conflict unlike in America where we are encouraged to speak up. Sao Paulo is the hub of corporate Brazil, housing its stock exchange and its equivalent of a Wall Street. Men and women are in suits on most weekdays here. It is customary to start work around 8AM, finish after 5PM or much later. Sometimes they go out for a late dinner at 9PM. See what I mean about being awake all day? Perhaps its the multiple cups of super strong espresso they drink a day. Have you heard of the "Brazilian way"? It's a synonym for make it work moments and that somehow at the end, they will finnagle their way through. It became customary for our group to take 2+ hours at a restaurant for dinner because service was slow and understaffed, or unluckily, a credit card machine breaks down. I have many more thoughts on business and government in Brazil but I save those for my class essay that I still need to write...

Chicken and pasta
My first meal when I got back was a piping hot bowl of pho with vinegar onions on the side and a cup of jackfruit smoothie at our favorite pho restaurant. Totally hits the spot. My first home made meal was Strozzapreti pasta with buttered chicken as you see below. Phil likes to say that my strength in the kitchen is making a tasty meal out of whatever we have in the house without needing to run out and buy other ingredients. After coming back to a house in which a lone husband has lived like a sad bachelor, eating white rice with hot dogs and a 5lb burrito and NOT! watering my plants in the garden, my skills of whipping up a tasty low key meal were desperately needed.

Phil's cousin brought back some Strozzapreti from Europe which has been sitting in the pantry waiting for the opportune recipe.

I shopped from my parents abundant garden and took all the harvestable grape tomatoes they had. Along with a head of garlic, a handful of red pearl onions, and a handful of basil leaves which were luckily still alive in our garden, I made a quick pasta sauce. First I cooked the garlic and onions in light oil, then added the tomatoes on medium heat, while boiling pasta. Once the rest of the pasta was about done, i added about 1 cup of pasta water into the sauce, turned the heat to high, and added basil 1 minute before adding in the pasta to the sauce. Salt and sugar to taste.

I have missed being in a kitchen. You have more control over what you eat this way. I am tired of dining out every day for every meal. And having hotel breakfast everyday, gah!

The pasta was cooked a few minutes past the package directions because the insides were still dry. This resulted in slightly soggy pasta but didn't affect the taste too much. Still deelish!

Our only remaining chicken thighs in the freezer were defrosted and brined for 30 minutes in a mixture of salt water, pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic powder, and Montreal chicken seasoning. Then they were patted dry and pan seared on both sides in a small amount of butter. I chose butter and not oil for the crispy tasty skin. About 3 minutes on high on each side then toss it in the oven for 6-7 more minutes at 400 degrees.

Voila! Pasta and chicken made from things we had at home or took from my parents' house when we visited. About 20 mins prep and 15 minutes cooking. Not the healthiest meal but definitely healthier than anything I've eaten in Brazil, you will see in a few entries...

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