Resolutely international, Austin’s Clarksville (1205 N. Lamar) draws on a world of culinary influences, from the Far East to South America. A creation that melds the traditions of two continents is the irresistible fried soft-shell crabs in moqueca sauce. The dish originated in northeastern India as pokeka, a seafood stew. From there, Portuguese traders carried it to their country’s colony of Brazil, where the name of the dish became “moqueca” and it turned into a Brazilian bouillabaisse. The Clarksville chefs have further modified the sprightly recipe, which incorporates lime juice, coconut milk, and tomatoes; it goes beautifully with biscoitos de queijo (cheese-and-potato biscuits).
Soft-Shell Crabs with Moqueca Sauce
2 tablespoons dende oil (red palm oil, available at Latin American or African markets)
2 teaspoons minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 cup concentrated chicken stock
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 – 3 serranos, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
3 tomatoes, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
6 fresh or frozen soft-shell crabs, cleaned
2 cups buttermilk
3 – 4 cups flour or oriental rice flour
Heat dende oil in medium saucepan over moderate heat until it begins to shimmer. Add ginger, garlic, and onion, and sautè until onion is transparent. Add stock, lime juice, serranos, cilantro, parsley, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Thicken to desired consistency with mixture of cornstarch and water. Add tomatoes and heat through. Season, remove from heat, and cover to keep warm.
Heat oil to 355 degrees. Dip crabs in buttermilk, then drain lightly and dredge in flour. Shake off excess flour and deep-fry until golden brown. Drain and serve over sauce. Serves 6. The sauce is also excellent with fried shrimp or grilled fish.
Biscoitos de Queijo
1 small potato, peeled, cooked, and mashed
1 cup grated Muenster cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Dash cayenne to taste (optional)
1/4 cup milk or 1 beaten egg yolk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine potato with cheese and butter. Sift dry ingredients together and add to potato mixture, mixing well. Turn onto lightly floured board. Knead dough three or four times and roll out to 1/3-inch thickness. Cut with round cutter and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush tops with milk or egg yolk and bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Yields 10 to 12 biscuits.