100 Brazilian Dishes: Vaca Atolada


My husband and his construction crew are proving themselves to be excellent cooks.  Although most of their recipes seem to demand large amounts of meat and the world’s largest pressure cooker.  This week’s menu selection was vaca atolada.  I did a little, hidden dance of joy over behind the sacks of plaster because it was on my 100 Brazilian Dishes to-do list.

Initially the name was confusing to me. “There’s a food named “stuck cow”?” Many images came to mind, none of them remotely related to food.  I couldn’t imagine what this dish would look like.

With time and experience on the farm the name is starting to make sense. You see, every so often a cow stupidly wanders into a swampy part of the farm, and she gets stuck. It takes multiple men to pull her out and even if you can round-up the necessary number of strong bodies to get her out oftentimes the cow dies of shock a few days later anyhow (they always seem to choose to get stuck over the weekend once the vet supply stores have closed and emergency meds become unavailable…argh). So Vaca Atolada is the recipe for what you do with all that wasted meat.

Main ingredients: meat on the bone, pequi fruit, and yucca. It’s all stewed together until the meat and yucca are tender. The pequi fruit gives the sauce a light, floral flavor reminiscent of jasmine in Indian cuisine. Delicious.

Apparently you can use any meat on the bone, not just cow meat.  I found this funny, and told my husband so:

Me: “Uai, what do you mean that can you use any meat?”

He: “Sure, you can use chicken, beef, whatever.”

Me: “But the name of the dish is vaca atolada.  Stuck Cow.  You can’t use anything else.”

He: “But then it becomes Stuck Chicken.”

You can’t argue with a logic like that.


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