The Cecil is a unique culinary destination that highlights the foodways of the African Diaspora through it’s “Afro-Asian-American” menu, curated by restaurateur Alexander Smalls and Executive Chef Johnson “JJ” Johnson. This Moquaca recipe is a rich and insightful take on the traditional Brazilian stew dish.
Prep time: 30M
Cooking time: 40M
Total time: 1H 10M
For the Moqueca
2 pounds yuca, peeled and medium diced
2 cups water
1 cup spinach
2 plum tomatoes
1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded
¼ cup grapeseed oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, medium diced
1 yellow onion, medium diced
1 celery stalk, medium diced
1 poblano pepper, medium diced
½ cup green curry paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 pound (1½ cups) okra, trimmed and sliced into ¼-inch rings
8 cups chicken stock
½ cup fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves (preferably fresh)
8 ounces salt cod, soaked overnight
8 ounces smoked salmon, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper , to taste
For the Prawns
1 pound (12 medium) head-on prawns, peeled and deveined
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp lemon zest
Kosher salt , to taste
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
Steamed rice , for serving
Thinly sliced Thai basil , for garnish
Thinly sliced scallions , for garnish
For the Moqueca:
In a blender, combine three-quarters of the yuca with the water, spinach, tomatoes and jalapeño. Purée until smooth and set aside.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and golden for 1 minute. Add the carrots, onion, celery and poblano pepper, and cook, stirring often, until soft and caramelized for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the curry and tomato pastes, and cook until fragrant for 2 minutes.
To the pot, add the remaining quarter of the yuca, the reserved yuca purée, the okra, chicken stock, fish sauce and lime leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the yuca is tender and the liquid is thickened for 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small pot, cover the salt cod with cold water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then immediately drain and rinse with cold water. Repeat this process 2 more times, then roughly chop the salt cod.
Add the salt cod and the smoked salmon to the stew, and cook until the fish is opaque, for 3 to 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Prawns:
In a medium bowl, toss the prawns with the parsley, red pepper flakes and lemon zest. Season with salt. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add the prawns and cook, flipping once, until golden brown and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Divide steamed rice between bowls and ladle the stew over it. Top with 2 prawns and garnish with sliced Thai basil and scallions, then serve.