- Written by Cynthia Presser
Do not be fooled by the rustic look of this traditional Brazilian recipe – this simple dish has an incredible amount of flavor!
Originally from the North Eastern region of Brazil, this delicious meal can be served as a full entrée or as an appetizer – sometimes prepared in individual small casseroles, which makes for a really cute presentation. These days, you can find it in restaurants and homes at all corners of Brazil.
Carne-seca is the equivalent of a very high quality jerky beef (take a look at the Cook’s Notes to learn more). It is basically a kind of dried and salted meat that has been used for centuries in Brazilian cuisine.
The real name of the dish is “Escondidinho de Carne-Seca”, which literally translates to “Jerky Beef Little Hidden One” – the carne-seca is “hidden” in between the two layers of velvety yuca purée. I thought that the literal translation would be a little crazy, so I am calling this recipe “Brazilian Jerky Beef and Yuca Bowl” – long name, but more comprehensive ;) I also have a version of this same meal with shrimp. If you are a fan of seafood, you should check this link for the recipe.
My husband says that this dish is like crack – extremely addictive! Sometimes the most rustic, simple meals have some of the most surprisingly incredible flavors. I hope you take a look and enjoy!
Brazilian Jerky Beef and Yuca Bowl (Escondidinho de Carne-Seca)
Serves 4 (as an entree) to 8 (as an appetizer)
Ingredients for Filling:
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon red chili flakes
- 3 cups (about 1 pound) of soaked, cooked, trimmed, shredded carne-seca (high quality jerky beef – See Cook’s Notes)
- 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ cup scallions, finely sliced
- Salt (See Cook’s Notes)
Ingredients for Yuca Purée:
- 2 pounds yuca, peeled and roughly sliced to fit in the pot (it can be frozen)
- 1 cup requeijão, or mascarpone (See Cook’s Notes)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (for garnishing)
Directions for Filling:
Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once oil is hot, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft; 3 to 4 minutes. Add red chili flakes and stir for a minute. Add carne-seca (beef jerky) and stir to combine. Add tomatoes and cook until they incorporated into sauce; 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in scallions. Sample and add a bit of salt, if needed.
Directions for Yuca Purée:
Place yuca in a large pot and cover with water. Add ½ teaspoon 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 pieces of yuca to a plate; allow cooling enough to touch. Save 1 cup of the cooking water.
Once yuca is cool enough to touch (it should still be pretty warm), remove any stems from the center. Transfer yuca pieces to a mixer or food processor (cut into smaller pieces if necessary), add ½ cup water, requeijão (or mascarpone), and butter. Pulse until purée is smooth. If it turns out too thick, add remaining ½ cup of cooking water. Sample and add more salt, if needed.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Place half of the yuca purée on the bottom of a medium sized baking dish. Layer carne-seca filling on top. Cover with remaining yuca purée. Sprinkle parmesan cheese and bake until top is golden brown; 15 to 20 minutes (see Cook’s Notes). Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
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 two or 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.
The definition for requeijão on Wikipedia is “The Brazilian product is a type of cream cheese white in color (but not similar to the American notion of cream cheese, and may be better understood as "creamy cheese"). It has a mild taste and its consistency can vary from creamy solid, like the catupiry, to liquid. Requeijão can be found in Latin or Brazilian grocery stores (see picture below). When I don’t have requeijão available, I like to use the Italian mascarpone in my recipes. Mascarpone serves as a very good substitute for requeijão and it can be found at any regular grocery store.
To achieve a nice golden color on top, turn the broil on for a couple of minutes by the end of baking time. Then remove from the oven, let stand for 10 minutes and serve.
Below is a picture of a very popular brand of requeijão.