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Cape Verdean ‘rissois de atum’ are crescent-shaped pastries that are filled with creamy tuna filling, dipped in bread crumbs and fried until golden brown. Rissois (called rissoles in English) make the perfect savory snack or appetizer!
I have a little challenge for you, place a platter of rissois down at a Cape Verdean function people and watch how quickly they disappear. If I’ve taught you anything about Cape Verdean cuisine, you’ll know that we go hard on the tuna! If there’s one thing we love, it’s our motherland’s most treasured export!
This recipe for rissoles is based on the version that I grew up eating at family parties. Rissois de atum may not be as popular as traditional Cape Verdean pastel (another tuna-filled pastry), but I actually enjoy making them more. Don’t be intimidated by making the dough from scratch, it’s actually quite easy and surprisingly kind of fun!
Other versions of rissois
Rissois (or rissoles) are eaten in just about every corner of the world. By definition, a rissol is a patty that’s filled with a minced meat or seafood. Rissoles (or rissois in Portuguese) are fried and often served as a snack or finger-food.
In Portuguese-speaking countries, it’s not uncommon for rissois to have a shrimp or fish filling. People from Cape Verde, Portugal, Brazil, Angola and Mozambique make versions of rissois that are pretty similar to one another. Also, the names can vary between countries.
While rissois de atum, are very popular in Cape Verde, other versions like rissois de camarão (shrimp rissoles) and rissois de bacalhau (cod rissoles) are also popular.
What are the differences between rissois and pastel?
When most people think of Cape Verdean tuna-filled pastries, pastel immediately comes to mind, but rissois are much different! Unlike pastel, rissois are breaded and stuffed with a creamy, bechamel-like fillling.
Pastel, on the other hand, are similar in style to pastelitos or empanadas and have a non-creamy tuna filling. The dough can be made from scratch, but most people just buy the frozen discs. Pastel are light and flaky where rissois have more of a dense dough and filling, and the outsides are coated in bread crumbs. Both are deep-fried and highly addicting!
What are the differences between rissois and croquettes?
To complicate matters even further, croquettes are yet-another fried snack that resemble rissois! Cape Verdean-style rissois and croquettes are similar, but there are key differences.
I personally define a croquette as a fried patty that is not enclosed in a casing. Cape Verdean croquettes are usually made of tuna or cod, rolled in flour and mashed potatoes which both act as binders. The croquette is then rolled into a ball or log shape, dipped in egg and bread-crumbs and deep fried in oil.
Rissois on the other hand, are turnovers with filling inside. Similar to croquettes, rissois are then dipped in egg and bread-crumbs and deep fried. Rissois are shaped like crescents, whereas croquettes are usually rolled into a ball or logs as I described.
What you’ll need to make rissois de atum:
If you refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this recipe for rissoles, you’ll notice that I include exact measurements, and have grouped the ingredients into two separate sets – the filling ingredients and the pastry ingredients.
- Butter (salted)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- All-purpose flour
- Kosher salt – don’t leave this out!
- 2 whisked eggs
- Seasoned bread-crumbs
- Vegetable or Canola oil for frying
Tuna filling ingredients:
- Canned tuna – I suggest tuna that’s packed in oil because I find that the oil preserves the flavor of the tuna
- Aromatics: Minced onions and crushed garlic
- Seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt and black pepper
- Hot sauce or chopped hot peppers
- Whole milk
- All-purpose flour
- Fresh chopped cilantro
Tips for making Rissois de atum:
- This recipe calls for canned tuna, not fresh tuna! If you can find Cape Verdean tuna, great! If not any tuna packed in oil will work. Solid tuna or chunk-light tuna both work fine.
- The dough gets very hot! This pastry dough is cooked on the stove-top and you’ll need to let it cool slightly before kneading it. My recommendation is to use a stand mixer with a dough hook if you have one, so you don’t have to wait for the dough to become cool to the touch.
- Use about 1 measured tablespoon of filling for each rissol. A small cookie scoop (#70) is great for portioning the filling and placing it on the dough. If you use too much filling or place it too close to the edges, the rissois won’t seal properly.
- Use a small glass or votive-holder to stamp out the rissois – I explain how in the recipe steps below.
- Seal the edges of the rissois by gently pressing the dough with your fingers. There is no moistening needed and you won’t need to use a press or tines of a fork.
How to make this recipe for rissoles:
Prepare the filling
Whisk 3 tablespoons of flour and 1 cup of milk together to make the filling base. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive-oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, then add the minced onions and toss until the onions become translucent. Add the garlic, tuna, chopped peppers (or hot sauce), and dry seasonings and cook until fragrant.
Add the milk/flour mixture, reduce the flame slightly and cook the filling until the mixture starts to bubble. You can stir occasionally during this process. Once the mixture is thick and bubbly, turn the flame off and stir in the fresh cilantro. Cover the pan and set the filling aside.
Make the dough
In a 4.5-quart pot, bring 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of butter to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and mix in 2 cups of flour. Use a rubber spatula to bring the dough together. The dough will be sticky, and might even appear grainy this is ok!
Cut the flame and transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand-mixer if you have one. Using a dough-hook attachment, knead the dough on medium speed until a ball forms, as shown in the photo below. If you’re not using a mixer, transfer the dough to a well floured cutting board and knead the dough with your hands. Let the dough cool slightly if you’re kneading with your hands!
Form the dough into a ball and use a pastry cutter to divide the dough into 2 portions. Wrap the portion that you’re not working with in a plastic-wrap. Set it aside until you are ready to use it. I like to portion the dough and wrap it so it doesn’t dry out.
Form the unwrapped-portion of the dough into a disc and roll it out on a well-floured surface (don’t forget to also flour your rolling pin!). The rolled out dough should be about ¼″ thick.
Scoop the filling onto the dough and assemble the rissois
Uncover the tuna filling and give it a quick stir with a rubber spatula. We are going to place 2-3 small scoops (about 1 measured tablespoon each) of filling about 2 inches from the bottom edge of the rolled-out dough. Leave about 2-3 inches between each scoop of filling.
Lift the edge of the dough up and fold it over the tuna. The tuna should touch the fold. Stamp the rissois out using a small glass or cup (I used a glass votive-holder). Make sure to leave a little bit of space between the tuna and the unfolded edges of the rissois. Refer to the photos below as a guide.
Seal the edges and repeat
Seal the rissois by gently pinching the edges. There is really no need to moisten the edges unless your dough becomes dry. Transfer each of the sealed rissois to a plate, it’s ok to place them on top of each other.
Once you’ve stamped out the rissois, roll the remaining dough scraps into a ball and roll it out using a rolling pin again. Repeat the same process of scooping the filling onto the dough and forming the crescents until you’ve used up all of the dough and all of the filling. You will end up with about two dozen rissois.
Dip the rissois in egg and bread-crumbs
Crack the 2 large eggs into a bowl and whisk them to make the egg wash. Pour the bread-crumbs in a separate shallow bowl. Dip both sides of each rissol into the egg wash and then in the bread-crumbs.
Shake any excess bread-crumbs right back into the bread-crumb bowl. Place the breaded rissois in a casserole dish or platter, it’s ok to stack them on top of each other.
Fry the rissois, transfer and let cool
Heat 5 cups of oil to 325°F in a cast-iron dutch oven or in a pot with deep sides. Working in batches of 4 or 5, deep-fry the rissois for about 1 minute on each side. Watch them closely, they will brown quickly!
Once the rissois are deep-golden brown in color, remove them from the oil using a spider-strainer or slotted metal spoon. Transfer the rissois to a cooling rack or sheet pan lined with paper towels. Let the rissois cool slightly and serve them right away.
How to store and re-heat leftover rissois
If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers you’ll be happy to know that rissois reheat pretty well, even after they’ve been fried. Store any leftover rissois in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Re-heat in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes. For crispier rissois, bump the oven temperature up to 400°F.
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