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Crab and Coconut Brazilian "Risotto" with Mango Salsa ("Risoto" de Carangueijo e Coco com Salsa de Manga)

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I knew it was very risky to feature the word risotto as part of this recipe’s title… Even more so having the word Brazilian next to it! I understand that Italians are very proud and protective of this centennial method of cooking rice – as they should be. So, before I start getting yelled at by my Italian friends I think I owe an explanation, right?

First, there is not such a thing as Brazilian risotto (that’s why I put the word risotto under parenthesis). Risotto is the Italian method of cooking certain varieties of high-starch rice in a broth until a creamy consistency develops. A traditional risotto recipe usually contains butter and/or olive oil, onions, wine and broth (vegetable, chicken, beef, or fish). Italians say that risotto is a white canvas that serves as the base to other ingredients to add flavors and textures to the dish.

That said, I was curious about trying to apply some Brazilian flavors to the traditional risotto method. Luckily, my creation was a hit!

So, to create my Crab and Coconut Brazilian “Risotto” I used non-traditional ingredients for the method, although they were all from the same “family”. For example, I used coconut oil to replace butter or olive oil, cachaça in lieu of wine, and a mixture of coconut milk and broth instead of just broth. The result was just as creamy, with the same all dente texture, and a slight unexpected flavor that was begging for the addition of some tropical ingredients. That base was my Brazilian white canvas.

Everything else came together very naturally: loads of scrumptious crab meat, nutty toasted coconut, tangy lime zest and a touch of sweet-spicy mango salsa. I hope you enjoy just as much as I did. Buon Appetito! Bom Apetite! Just give it shot.

Crab and Coconut Brazilian "Risotto" with Mango Salsa

Serves 4

Ingredients for Salsa:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and finely diced
  • ¼ cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1 small chili pepper, seeded and minced (See Cook’s Notes 1*)
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • Juice of 1 medium orange

Ingredients for Risotto:

  • 2 cups (13.5 fl.oz.) coconut milk
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup cachaça (See Cook’s Notes 2*)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound crab meat, canned or refrigerated, gently pulled apart
  • ½ cup unsweetened, toasted coconut flakes (Optional - See Cook’s Notes 3*)
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • Lime wedges, for serving
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Directions for Mango Salsa:

Add mango, mint, chili pepper, dark brown sugar, and orange juice to a medium bowl. Fold ingredients with a spatula until incorporated. Cover and set aside.

Directions for Risotto:

In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, mix coconut milk and vegetable broth. Once it comes to a light boil, reduce heat to low and keep liquids simmering.

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, place coconut oil. Once oil is hot, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft; 4 minutes. Add Arborio rice and stir well to coat grains evenly with oil. Add cachaça and reduce heat to medium-low. Season with salt and keep stirring until cachaça is nearly absorbed. Add 1 ½ ladle of the coconut milk-vegetable broth mixture, and stir until liquid is nearly absorbed. Keep adding more liquid to the skillet, 1 to 1 ½ ladle at time, stirring constantly or stirring well at least once per minute. Keep an eye on the heat – reduce to low if liquid is being absorbed too fast – the risotto must remain cooking at a nearly even temperature. After about 20 to 25 minutes, the coconut milk-vegetable broth mixture should be nearly gone (or gone) and the risotto should be creamy, with an al dente texture. Remove from heat and adjust salt if needed. Add black pepper if you wish.

Add crab meat, coconut flakes (optional) and lime zest to risotto skillet, folding gently to incorporate.

Have four serving bowls slightly heated. Divide risotto into the bowls and top with 1 to 2 tablespoons of mango salsa. Have extra mango salsa available at the table, as well as lime wedges. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes:

  1. Most variety of chili peppers should work well in this recipe. I used red jalapeño, since it has a mild/medium temperature – the bright red color also looks gorgeous mixed with the mangoes. If you are up for a real kick use habaneros – they are very spicy and go great with mangoes.
  2. Cachaça is the signature Brazilian liquor. Some people call it Brazilian rum since both are made of sugar cane. The difference lies on the process of the main ingredient: rum is made of sugar cane molasses, and cachaça is made of the juice of sugar cane. If you don’t have cachaça available, rum can serve as a substitute.
  3. Store bought toasted coconut flakes can vary in size quite a bit. Before mixing in the risotto, gently break apart the bigger flakes that are over ½ inch in size – you can place the flakes in a cutting board and quickly run a knife through them. If you prefer, you can toast the coconut flakes at home. To do so, follow this link http://www.wikihow.com/Toast-Coconut for instructions. I marked this ingredient as optional because my husband likes this recipe better without the coconut flakes, but I like it better with. It is matter of preference.
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By the time the risotto is done, the rice grains are swallen and al dente. The broth should be creamy.
 
crab-coconut-risotto-crab
 
Gently break apart the crab meat before folding into the risotto.

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The mango salsa adds a touch of sweet heat to the dish. And beautiful color too!

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