This month’s supper club took on an exotic, tropical twist with its Brazilian theme. I spent a year in the northeastern city of Recife when I was eighteen and, as I was hostess this time round, the party had a distinctively northeast influence.
Appetizers began with pão de queijo (cheese bread balls) and pastéis (little fried cheese- and meat-filled pastries). They were perfect to nibble on as we prepared the caipirinhas with true Brazilian cachaça (sugar cane liquor), fresh lime juice, and sugar on ice. They’re powerfully strong, a bit sour till you reach all the sugar at the bottom, and wonderfully refreshing. A mere sniff can transport me instantly to a palm-lined beach, reclining in a beach chair, sun umbrella overhead…
We feasted on feijoada, a black bean stew full of meat – just about every part of the pig you can imagine eating, and even those you can’t, such as the choice chunk of pig belly that the butcher gave me – served over white rice. Feijoada was created when slave-owners gave their slaves the most obscure bits of meat to eat, along with beans, which provide much-needed energy. It always fascinates me to see how history inverts things, and now feijoada — something that the upper class would never eat before — has become the national dish. Sautéed collard greens topped it off, along with salada de acelga, a shredded cabbage salad.
Dessert was a bit of a fiasco. My intentions of making mousse de maracujá, or passionfruit mousse, failed entirely. I hunted high and low for passionfruit in any possible shape or form, but found nothing. I opted for canned papaya instead. The recipe was a failure. I’ve reached a stage in my cooking ability where true and total culinary failures are relatively rare, so when it does occur, it’s quite upsetting. Needless to say, my husband flushed the entire mess down the toilet and we started over with a miraculous little box of passionfruit mousse mix that our sole Brazilian guest managed to track down in the back of his pantry! One guest brought brigadeiros, little chocolate truffles that are also regular party fare. They were a big hit.
We were lucky enough to have a real Brazilian guy among the guests – a rare find in this neck of the woods – who brought a few of the most authentic touches to the meal, including guaraná, a very popular juice/pop made from an Amazonian berry.
The evening’s soundtrack included everything from classic bossa nova and samba to new MPB (música popular brasileira — fairly self-explanatory) and, in true northeastern fashion, forró. My attempts to initiate dancing fell a bit flat, but I suppose there’s only so much authenticity one can recreate in another hemisphere of the world! Enfim, it was a lovely summer evening of delicious food and great music spent under the stars in our backyard.