Cuscuz de Galinha
I fell in love with this Latin American dish, not just because it’s so pretty, but because of the peasant nature of it. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Essentially it’s cooked, meat-filled cornmeal layered with peas, that’s then topped with hard-boiled eggs, hearts of palm, tomato slices, and olives. Then the whole thing is steamed before it’s served. I just had to try it.
The origin of this recipe, which translates into “Molded Steamed Chicken, Cornmeal and Vegetables,” is Brazil. The fanciful nature of this dish makes me wonder if it’s one that is served on a special holiday, but I couldn’t find any info on that.
The recipe I used is from the Time-Life series Foods of the World – my old stand-by cookbooks. This one – Latin American Cooking. I made a few necessary changes, but nothing that compromised the dish. I will type the recipe up exactly how I did it.
Truthfully, the recipe pushed me a little out of my comfort zone just because I’m not used to doing such fiddly presentations, but I challenged my patience and just stuck with it. The good thing? This is a fabulous dish!!!
Cuscuz de Galinha
6 chicken breasts*
1/4 cup white vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 large tomato, chopped, seeded
1 cup chicken stock
Line the bottom of a large skillet with the chicken breasts, then add the next seven ingredients.
Place the skillet in the fridge and marinate the chicken overnight.
The next morning, cook the chicken in the marinade for about 10 minutes, using tongs to move the breasts around. Then add the chopped tomato and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a plate, and strain the marinade, keeping the juices in a large bowl.
When the chicken has cooled, slice it up into narrow slices, and add to the juices, tossing to moisten the chicken.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound chorizo, crumbled
In another skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat, then add the sausage and cook them until they have browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Place the sausage on some paper towels to drain.
When they have fully drained, add the chorizo to the chicken mixture.
4 cups yellow cornmeal, medium grind
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons hot sauce (optional)
Place the cornmeal in a large pot and add the salt. Add the boiling water, and stirring constantly, incorporate the water into the cornmeal.
Then stir in the butter, olive oil, and parsley.
Add the chicken and chorizo and some of the juices if you think the cornmeal needs a little moistening.
3 tomatoes, seeded, sliced about 1/8″ thin
hearts of palm from a can, rinsed, dried, sliced about 1/8″ thin
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut crosswise into 1/8″ slices
Pimiento-stuffed green olives, cut crosswise into 1/8″ slices
1 cup thoroughly defrosted peas
Oranges, for serving
Grease the inside of a large colander, the finer holes the better. If you’re using large tomatoes, center a tomato slice in the middle bottom of the colander. If you’re using smaller tomatoes, just be as creative as you can be with the design. Build the design outward, using the hearts of palm, eggs, more tomatoes, and olives.
When you are done with lining the colander, place one-third of the meat and cornmeal mixture in the bottom of the colander and press down lightly. Try to lay the chicken slices horizontally, so you end up with a layered effect. Top with half of the peas.
Continue with one-third of the cornmeal mixture topped with the remaining peas, then press the remaining cornmeal mixture on top, smoothing the top.
Cover the colander tightly and place it in a large pot; the bottom of the colander should be above the bottom of the pot. Add water to within about one inch from the bottom of the colander, then cover everything tightly, either with foil or a tightly-fitting lid.
Proceed to steam for one hour, making sure the water doesn’t completely evaporate.
After one hour, let the dish cool slightly, then turn it over onto a serving plate.
To serve, carefully slice a wedge, and serve it with orange slices.
* I used chicken breasts because a certain person who eats my food only eats breasts of chicken. But if I had my way I would have used thighs, or a whole chicken, cut into pieces.
note: The name cuscuz is interesting, and the origin is intriguing, although this isn’t a wheat couscous like in the Middle East. However, the “grains” of cornmeal stay separated like a couscous, but maybe because I used a medium-grind, whole-grain cornmeal.
Verdict: I will probably never make this dish again, but not because it doesn’t taste good. I would actually make a deconstructed Cuscuz de Galinha in the future, because all of the components are really good. It was fun to try.
Wow, Chef Mimi, that is just gorgeous. You really are amazing. I love Latin American food. They have something somewhat similar in Chile called choclo, which I plan to make when I have a spare 3 hours or so. It has meat, chicken, corn, olives, etc. Feijoada has been on my list for a while too. When I get around to it, I will be using your recipe. Tomorrow I’ve got a paella on deck. Keep up the beautiful work. You’re an inspiration.
You are so sweet!!! Your choclo sounds very similar. It’s probably easy as well, just time consuming. Love paella – can’t wait!!!
What a beautiful dish and I love the flavor profile.
It was fun! As I said, probably not something I’d make again…
It is pretty cool looking!
Looks beautiful! I may have to try something like this.
Like Ken said in the below comment, this would be really fun for an informal lunch. Thanks for introducing me to your blog!!!
This looks wild, like the timbalo from BIG NIGHT! I love assembled dishes, although it seems I rarely have the time to put them together. Looks like it would be fun for an informal lunch or dinner party. ken
This looks wild, like the timbalo from BIG NIGHT! I love assembled dishes, although it seems I rarely have the time to put them together. Looks like it would be fun for an informal lunch or dinner party. Oh, and feijoada rules – a Brazilian cook in one of my wife’s kitchens used to bring it to staff parties, and then sit back and laugh when his American coworkers realized they were eating pig’s ears or tail. ken
I know, it’s crazy, right? Some people thought it was a hat…
My mother used to have my friends over and make them rabbit, and then tell them while they were eating what they thought was chicken…..
and there were some worse things, but she’s still alive so I really shouldn’t mention them…..
Wow Mimi, lots of effort in this!!
It was worth it, once!
This looks very good! I can see the fussiness in preparation can pay off. Nice photography Mimi.
Thank you so much!!!
This is wild! What a crazy beautiful dish. :)
What an interesting dish! Sounds like a fun thing to serve at a party :)
It would be !
The first photo really got my attention … it looks like a flower bouquet! I appreciate your ‘verdict’. There are dishes which are fun and exciting to prepare, but once may be enough. ;)
A friend of mine thought it was a hat! Yes, once was enough, but it was fun to try!
How beautiful. I have never heard of this dish but it looks so tasty and the presentation is perfect. Were you nervous when it was time to invert it out of the bowl. This would be a beautiful dish for a wedding or baby shower or really any kind of gathering. Are you on pinterest Im pinning this one… Take care, BAM
ha! the recipe suggested using a plate that fit inside the colander, but I didn’t have one, so I just inverted it and waited for that “thwop” sound, then peeked under, and saw very little damage. It holds together very well because of the steaming, I think. I’m on pinterest, yes – thanks!!!!!
That’s some presentation! pretty pretty!
Thank you Rachel!!!
Wow, loving this! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dish like this.
I hadn’t either!!! So I had to try it!
Wow! I might need to try this, it looks like fun. Thanks for sharing it!
It was fun to do. You are so welcome!
I think this is so cool! So unique and pretty and I’m sure super delicious! I love assembling dishes like this, and they are always crowd pleasers, don’t you think? :-)
Yes, definitely a crowd pleaser, although I think only my husband was around …..