Coxinha (little chicken thigh), is a popular food in Brazil consisting of chopped or shredded chicken meat, covered in dough, moulded into a shape resembling a chicken leg, battered and fried.
Coxinhas were originally made with a chicken thigh, which its traditional shape is meant to resemble. In its modern processed form it may have originated in Limeira in the 19th century.
In the book Stories & Recipes, Nadir Cavazin says that the son of Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil (1846-1921) and Prince Gaston, Count of Eu, a child who lived in seclusion for having mental problems had a favourite dish, chicken, but only ate the thigh. One day, not having enough thigh, the cook decided to turn a whole chicken into thighs, shredding it and making the filling for a flour dough shaped into a drumstick. The child endorsed the results. Empress Teresa Cristina, when she was visiting him, could not resist the tasty delicacy; she liked it so much she requested that the master of the imperial kitchen learn how to prepare the snack.
The coxinha is based on dough made with wheat flour and chicken broth and optionally mashed potato, which is filled with shredded spiced chicken meat, or a whole chicken thigh. The filling consists of chicken, and onions, parsley and spring onions (scallions), and occasionally tomato sauce, turmeric and catupiry cheese. The coxinha is coated in batter , then in bread crumbs or manioc flour and deep fried. It is shaped to roughly resemble a chicken leg. The dough used to coat the filling is generally prepared with the broth of the chicken, enhancing the flavour of the coating.
Different variations of the original are becoming more prevalent today – for example, the coxinha mineira, for which the filling includes maize, so named because maize is deemed a culinary tradition in the state of Minas Gerais, as well as areas where the caipira and sertanejo dialects are spoken. Cheese coxinhas are also very common in snack bars. To mark the cheese coxinhas they usually have a toothpick where the bone would be in a chicken coxinha.
Other unconventional ingredients, generally used for home-made coxinhas made by aficionados, include peas, chopped button mushrooms, palmheart, carrot, as well whole-wheat flour batter or even a vegetarian version of either textured vegetable protein (soy meat) or falafel with appropriate seasonings so its taste resembles a traditional coxinha more closely . Nevertheless, these variants are rarely to be found in snack bars.
Coxinha literally means “little thigh”, and it is how deep fried chicken legs are informally named in Brazil (coxa frita means a deep fried chicken leg, while sobrecoxa frita stands for a deep fried upper drumstick; It is not uncommon for people having a strong preference for certain poultry cuts over others). Battered and deep fried chicken breast pieces, for example, are generally called by a name of English influence, nugget.
- 700 g chicken breasts (about 4 halves)
- 1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock (see Note 1)
- 1 medium carrot
- 2 medium onions
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic
- juice of 1 lime
- 225 g cream cheese, softened (see Note 2)
- 2 - 3 cups plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 - 3 cups very finely grated breadcrumbs
- oil for frying
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Place the chicken breasts in a large shallow pot. Cover them with the chicken stock, adding water if necessary to make sure the chicken breasts are covered by at least 1 cm of liquid.
- Add the carrot and one of the onions (peeled and halved) as well as the bay leaves.
- Bring liquid to a gentle simmer, and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through (barely pink in the middle of the thickest part).
- Set chicken aside to cool, and strain the broth. Reserve broth.
- Shred the chicken into very small pieces. (see Note 3)
- Stir the softened cream cheese and lime juice into the shredded chicken.
- Finely chop the second onion and the garlic. Sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until golden and soft.
- Add the hot onions and garlic to the chicken mixture and stir until everything is well mixed.
- Measure the chicken broth (you will probably have about 3½ cups). If you have less than three cups, add more chicken stock to make 3 cups. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan, and gradually stir in the same amount of flour as you have broth (so if you have 3½ cups broth, add 3½ cups flour).
- Stir vigorously and cook for 2-3 minutes. Mixture will become a stiff dough. Remove from heat and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. At this point, you can chill the chicken mixture and the dough for several hours or overnight.
- Take a piece of the dough about the size of a golf ball with floured hands. Roll it into a ball, then hollow out the middle for the filling.
- Press a golf-ball size piece of the chicken filling inside the ball of dough, and press the dough closed around the filling. Shape into an approximate drumstick or cone shape, flouring your hands as necessary. Stand the coxinhas on a baking sheet, so that the pointed end sticks upwards. Continue until you run out of dough or filling.
- Whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Place the bread crumbs in a shallow pan and season with salt and pepper.
- Dip the coxinhas in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs to coat. Chill the crumbed coxinhas for 1 hour.
- Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with enough oil to cover the coxinhas. Heat the oil to 180°C. Fry the coxinhas in batches until deep golden brown.
- Serve warm
2. If you're lucky enough to find Brazilian catupiry cheese, use it in place of the cream cheese.
3. Use your fingers or two forks - however, be careful if you choose to use a food processor as it may turn to mush if you're not careful.