After a rollercoaster of emotions and unexpected outcomes, Mexico has qualified for the knockout (second) round at the FIFA World Cup. Since the Mexican team lost against Sweden 0-3, it ended up in second place of group F, and it will face group E’s top team on Monday July 2. In that group, Switzerland, Serbia and Brazil were all in a position to finish first; in the end, Brazil prevailed with a 2-0 victory over Serbia. Once the match Mexico vs Brazil was scheduled, I started looking for a good Brazilian recipe. Xinxim is a dish of chicken in a peanut and cashew sauce, interesting because it is already a fusion of Brazil’s diverse background – with Portuguese and African influences – and highlighting their native peanuts and cashews. Moreover, it is allegedly Pelé’s favourite dish, and it became very popular four years ago, when Brazil hosted the World Cup. On the Mexican side, there is a traditional pollo en cachuate (chicken in peanut sauce) dish, closely related to the Spanish pollo almendrado (chicken with almonds). There were two key ingredients in xinxim that I could not use: shrimp, because I am allergic, so I simply excluded it; and, since I could not be certain to find a cruelty-free source of palm oil, I used coconut oil and paprika (for colour) instead. Finally, xinxim calls for lime juice and cilantro, which complemented the – very Mexican – tomatoes from the Mexican recipe.
Xinxim with Tomatoes – Xinxim con tomate
1 fresh lime
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp paprika, separated
½ tsp ground all-spice
2 lbs (1 kg) chicken *
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
½ cup water
½ cup roasted peanuts
½ cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tomatoes, stem end removed, and quartered
1 tbsp coconut oil
½ cup red wine (or water)
¼ cup roasted cashews, halved
* Xinxim calls for chunks of boneless and skinless chicken thigh or breast. Pollo en cacahuate uses bone-in pieces. I prefer breast, and decided to try half with bone and skin, and half in chunks this time, to see if it made a big difference. I think I would prefer the chunks for convenience, and also because the dish is rich enough that the skin only added fat, but not much flavour. However, on a presentation scale, the whole pieces get one or two points over the chunks.
Squeeze juice from lime over chicken, then turn pieces to coat, while rubbing with lime halves to add extra flavour. Sprinkle chicken with salt, half the paprika, and the all-spice; refrigerate. In a large pan, warm up olive oil over medium heat; add onion and garlic, and sauté for a couple of minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Remove from heat, reserving oil in the pan. Scoop onion and garlic into a blender or food processor; add water, peanuts, cilantro, ginger and tomatoes. Process until smooth; pour mixture into the large pan with the reserved oil. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up coconut oil in a large frying pan. Sprinkle the rest of the paprika, then add chicken pieces in batches, turning to brown on all sides:
Transfer chicken pieces to simmering sauce as they brown (I cooked the bone-in pieces longer). When all the chicken has been transferred to the sauce, pour wine (or water) in the frying pan, scrapping burnt bits from the bottom; incorporate liquid with bits into the stew, along with the cashews:
Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and continue simmering for at least 20 minutes. Serve hot with a side of rice and some black beans (Printable recipe: White Rice)
Fun fact: Peanuts and cashews are both originally from South America, specifically and most likely from Brazil. Spanish and Portuguese explorers and traders took the crops back home and into Asia and Africa. Peanuts had made their way to Mexico by the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, but it is believed that peanuts were brought to the United States as late as the 1700s, via Africa!
“Chiquitibum a la bim bom ba … Mexico, Mexico, rah, rah, rah!”