- Written by Cynthia Presser
One of my favorite things to do when I am in vacation in Brasil is to go to the countless bars by the beach. I love to order a "gelada" (really cold beer) and an appetizer. Brazilian bar food is something else...
Usually shared by everyone at the table, servers bring these appetizer plates along with full sets of silver wear, napkins and small plates - it is expected that people hold their finger food using a paper napkin or, many times, using utensils. Different, right? Also, nobody stands up while eating - common habit here in the US. Everyone seats down enjoying the moment. It is such a relaxing vibe!
I miss that atmosphere and food very much, so I must replicate it here ;)
There are dozens – maybe hundreds – of Brazilian bar food recipes. In Brazil, we have a variety of pumpkins available year around, but here in the US I must wait until the right time comes to share some of my recipes. And the time is right for my Pumpkin-Jerky Meet Croquette (Bolinho de Abóbora com Carne-Seca).
Creamy, with a hint of sweetness and a crunchy crust, this croquette is amongst my favorite choices of appetizers when I go to Brazil. It begs to be enjoyed with a cold beer, but it goes just fine with wine too!
I have shared before recipes with Brazilian Carne-Seca, which is a very flavorful meat like a gourmet jerky beef. It’s dried and salted, and it can be substituted for other Latin kinds, such as the Mexican dried beef. If you can find Brazilian carne-seca, be sure to trim the fat and soak overnight before using. I promise the extra time is worth it! Plan in advance and you can serve a unique Brazilian appetizer at your next gathering – maybe game night?
I promise that the flavor of my Pumpkin-Jerky Beef Croquette will transport you to the beach bars of Ipanema – especially if paired with a “gelada”. Bom Apetite!
Makes about 25
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 ripe tomatoes, diced, seeds discarded
- 3 cups (about 1 pound) of soaked, cooked, trimmed, shredded carne-seca (high quality jerky beef – See Cook’s Notes) 1*
- 2 cups (16 ounces) pumpkin purée, preferably made from scratch out of a sugar pumpkin (See Cook’s Notes) 2*
- ½ cup scallions, finely chopped
- ¼ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
- 3 eggs, divided
- 1 to 1 ¼ cups flour (See Cook’s Notes) 3*
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- Vegetable oil, for frying
Heat up olive oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and garlic; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are incorporated; about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add Carne-Seca. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Remove from heat.
Off the heat, add pumpkin purée, 1 egg, scallions, and mint. Using a wooden spoon, mix ingredients very well, until totally incorporated.
Return pot to stove and set it over medium heat. Constantly stirring, add flour slowly (1/4 cup at a time). Cook until mixture looks smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool down to touch.
On a working surface, place the remaining 2 eggs (lightly beaten) and bread crumbs in two different, medium-size bowls arranged side-by-side.
Grease hands with oil. Using an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, make portions of pumpkin-meat mixture and roll through the palms of hands forming a ball shaped croquette. Drop the croquette into egg mixture, carefully turning around to coat all sides. Then, roll croquette into bread crumbs. Repeat process until all croquettes are formed.
In a large frying pan set up over medium heat, place enough vegetable oil that will enable to deep-fry croquettes. Once oil is hot, deep-fry croquettes into batches until golden-brown. Remove croquettes from fryer and transfer to a large plate lined with paper towel.
Serve warm, alongside with hot sauce (optional).
1* - The definition for carne-seca on Wikipedia is “Carne-Seca ('dried meat' in Portuguese) is a kind of dried, salted meat, usually beef, in Brazilian cuisine.”
Carne-seca would be the Brazilian version of the American Jerky Beef, but not that cheap, overly seasoned kind that we can buy in those small packages pretty much anywhere. It is a gourmet kind. I heard that high quality beef jerky is available at specialty meat markets. I went to a couple of places in Tampa looking for it, but I had no luck. So my guess is that if you want to make this dish, either make a trip to a Latin or Brazilian grocery store (it is so worth it!) or buy it online. Go for the real deal!
Carne-seca is typically very salty. Make sure to soak it overnight before cooking. If there is no time for soaking, simmer the meat for about one to two hours, changing the cooking water at least three times during the process. Remove the pieces of meat and discard the water. Allow the carne-seca to come to room temperature before shredding. SUPER IMPORTANT: shred very finely and remove all visible fat – trimming the fat before cooking might be easier than doing it afterwards. For this recipe, I used a brand called Corte’s – which I found at a nearby Brazilian market. Please, do not follow the cooking directions specified on the package of that brand to avoid turning out with a tough, too salty meat. Use my directions instead.
The cubed Carne-Seca prior of having the fat removed.
The Carne-Seca was trimmed and chopped very finely.
2* - You can use store bought pumpkin purée for this recipe, although I recommend the use of home-made. Half of a sugar pumpkin should yield enough purée to make the croquettes, then you can maybe save the remaining for a pie.
Here are the directions on how to make Pumpkin Purée:
Start with a small-medium sugar pumpkin, cut out the stem and scrape out the insides, discard. Cut the pumpkin in half and lay cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake at 350°F until fork tender, about an hour to an hour and a half. Remove from oven, let cool, scoop out the pulp and smash it with a fork or in a food processor.
3* - It’s important to add the flour very slowly. Usually, one cup is enough to give the dough the right body to the croquettes. If you are having problems when rolling the dough - in case they come apart on your hands - return it to the stove top and add another 1/4 cup of flour to ease the process.
This is how the dough should look like before being rolled into croquettees. It is not a very firm dough. It's moist, but it must have enough body to hold the shape of the croquettes.