Every summer Carolina comes out to the East End and we throw a couple of dinner parties together. This year, to kick off summer, I asked her to come up with a special recipe for Hamptons Beachouse using our local bounty of fresh fish. We stopped by Gosman’s Fish Market in Montauk to pick up local black sea bass, squid and scallops; and then Balsam Farms in Amagansett for produce for our side dishes – kale, asparagus, and radishes. Carolina came up with a killer twist on a moqueca (a typical Brazilian fish stew that comes from Bahia and Espirito Santo) that is flavorful, fresh and light!
But before we get to the recipe, let’s get to know the chef, because like any great dinner party at the beach, getting to know the person who is making the food and where it comes from, makes it taste that much sweeter…
What is you first beach memory?
Being in Rio! My grandmother and grandfather lived there. The beaches of Rio are magical… you have an incredible mountain range with a view of the Christ the Redeemer statue and the Sugar Loaf peak. There are amazing Portuguese style mosaic calçadas (sidewalks) designed with different sized stones. Some days they close off the streets bordering the beach so everyone just walks up and down, especially in Ipanema. Rio is broken up into different sections, and each area has its own personality.
What is the beach culture like in Rio?
People go to the beach ALL day. There are tents called barracas where you can rent umbrellas and chairs. There are people selling Picolés (popsicles) – there are fruit ones, like passion fruit and mango, or coconut. There is one that is just condensed milk, very rich. And shrimp on a stick and grilled cheese – actual pieces of grilled cheese – corn on the cob, fresh coconut water. Over the years these places, the huts, have become more commercialized, but the beach is still an all day thing. They embrace the tan. There is a joke that in Rio you tan standing up – people are always standing and looking around. One of my favorite parts of being in Rio is sunset – it can be so incredible that everyone on the beach claps.
What would you eat at the beach?
At home my grandmother would make lunch around 1:30-2pm. There was always rice and beans and farofa, a toasted yucca flour that you mix in with the rice and beans. There was usually some kind of French fry situation as well as meat, a steak or bife acebolado – beef sautéed with onion. Super simple and totally delicious. For special occasions, she would make a dish from Portugal, cocido, a wide range of root vegetables that are boiled and served with meats. It’s an all day meal – you generally have people over for a late lunch. She often made Bobó de camarão, a shrimp based stew with yucca and a little bit of coconut milk. There is a lot of shrimp and coconut milk used in Brazilian cooking and dende oil, which is essentially made from palm fruit. She would also make bacalhau, salt cod, another Portugese dish for New Year’s. She would soak it in milk or water for a couple of days, add potatoes, tomatoes, olives and a ton of olive oil. The consistency is firm, but delicate.
What is your favorite fish?
Whole fish, like Branzino, grilled. Sardines. Octopus. Scallops. In Brasilia there was a place called Francisco’s where you could get tambaqui Amazon fish, a big meaty fish simply prepared on the grill. I’ve never had it anywhere else.
Ideal number of people for a dinner party?
That’s easy. Eight. It allows people to get to know each other. You will eventually exchange words with everyone throughout the night and make genuine connections, or not.
What’s the sign of a good dinner party?
Timelessness. When you get there and people are still prepping it’s lovely, as opposed to, you’ve arrived, let’s sit. No sense of rush; everyone is feeling very present. I like to eat early, but over the years I’ve let that go for dinner parties. You will eventually eat. It’s going to be okay. Just enjoy yourself.
What do you love about the Hamptons?
I have a lot of great memories with friends here. Cooking of course. Even if I’m just here for twenty-four hours, it’s always worth it to me. The days feel longer. I love the farms. You can really tell the difference with amazing fresh produce like the just-picked kale we got for our salad.
What do you want to tell us about the recipe you created for us?
I love Brazilian food, but I do think it can be a heavy cuisine in a lot of ways. So I did a twist on a moqueca, which generally uses dende oil. Dende adds a lot of color, but also makes it a bit heavy. The Bahiano version of this dish traditionally also uses coconut milk, which is great but can also be very rich. In this recipe, I replaced coconut milk with coconut water and replaced dende oil with coconut oil, and added turmeric for color, which also happens to be great for reducing inflammation. I used fish sauce as a replacement for dried shrimp, which is not necessarily used in this particular dish, but is found in a lot of Brazilian cooking, an influence from Africa. I served farro with sautéed shallots along with the stew, instead of the usual rice. It adds a nice nuttiness, and I like the contrast in consistency.