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Coconut-Chicken Brazilian Yuca Pot Pie (Escondidinho de Frango com Leite de Coco)

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Looking at the picture, probably not many people would believe that this is a very popular Brazilian bar food item. In fact, it’s one of my favorite appetizers! 

If you have been following my recipes for awhile, you may have noticed that I shared several different versions of this dish – two of them using shrimp, one using Brazilian jerk beef, and the latest with chicken and coconut milk. Yes, I do love this dish and all its versions! And yes, it is bar food that requires utensils… But I can explain.

In Brazil, bars are set up differently than here. Rarely people stand around just ordering drinks. These places, called “botecos”, are filled up with tables and chairs, and food is part of the experience. Food in the “botecos” is usually heavy, fried, and portions are big enough to be shared - exactly the kind of stuff people crave after consuming alcohol. So, everyone shares a bunch of different things. When I am in Brazil, having bar food at “botecos” is one of my favorite activities!

So, please meet my Coconut-Chicken Brazilian Yuca Pot Pie (Escondidinho de Frango com Leite de Coco). Normally, this dish doesn’t have coconut milk, but I decided to jazz it up for fun, and it turned out very tasty! 

Besides coconut milk, I added a bit of red palm oil for an extra layer of aromatics – and gorgeous color – but you can skip if you cannot find the exotic ingredient. The yuca purée tops the sauce, hiding the deliciousness – therefore, the name which literally translates to “Coconut Milk-Chicken Little Hidden One”. I decided to make it simpler and I rebaptized this version as Coconut-Chicken Brazilian Yuca Pot Pie (I think it looks like a cross in between a pot pie and a Sheppard’s pie). 

If you are short in time, skip the ramekins and assemble the dish into a large oven-proof dish. Invite your friends over to share, just as if you were in a Brazilian “boteco”. Bom apetite!

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Coconut-Chicken Brazilian Yuca Pot Pie (Escondidinho de Frango com Leite de Coco)

Makes 10 to 12 appetizer portions or serves 6 to 8 as an entrée

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 2 chicken breasts (skinless and boneless), about 1 ½ pounds
  • salt
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons red palm oil (dendê oil) – optional
  • 1 large onions, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 to 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 ½ cups (14-ounce can) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste (or more to taste)
  • 1 ½ cups (14-ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Ingredients for Yuca Topping:

  • 2 pounds yuca, peeled and roughly sliced (it can be frozen)
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs (for garnishing)

Directions for Filling:

Place chicken breasts in a medium size sauce pan filled with about 6 cups of boiling water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and simmer, over medium-low heat, until breasts are fully cooked; about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and allow to cool. Discard the water.

Once the chicken is cool enough to touch, shred it finally and set aside.

Set a large sauce pan onto medium-high heat and add the coconut oil and the red palm oil. Once oil is hot, add the onions, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft; 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant; about 1 minutes. Stir in the can of tomatoes and allow to come to a light boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and season lightly with salt. Partially cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally (while breaking apart the tomatoes with a spoon), until incorporated; about 15 minutes.

Adjust heat to medium-high. Mix in chili paste and coconut milk allowing it to come to a light boil. Add the shredded chicken and stir well. Adjust salt, if needed. Remove from heat and fold in cilantro.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Divide chicken sauce into 10 to 12 oven-proof ramekins. Spoon the yuca purée on top and sprinkle with Panko bread crumbs.

Transfer to oven and bake until golden on top; about 10 minutes (for an evenly golden top, set oven to broil for the last two minutes, but keep a close eye to avoid burning). Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Directions for Yuca Purée:

Place yuca in a large pot and cover with water. Add ½ tablespoon of salt. Cook on medium heat until yuca is very soft; 30 to 60 minutes (time will vary depending on the variety and quality of yuca).

Once cooked, remove yuca to a plate; allow cooling enough to touch. Save 1 cup of the cooking water.

When cool enough to touch (but still warm), remove stems from the core and discard.

Transfer yuca pieces to a mixer or food processor (cut into smaller pieces if necessary), add ½ cup water, and butter. Pulse until purée is smooth. If it turns out too thick, gradually add some more cooking water. Adjust salt, if needed.

Spoon on top of the chicken sauce.

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