By Malcolm Emmanueil
To have Brazilian churrasco - as long as you're not vegetarian, of course
it's a must-do assignment when ready to experience some Brazilian food,
whether you are visiting Brazil or booking a table in a Brazilian restaurant
at home or abroad.
If you happen to be spending some holidays in Brazil head off to the nearest
churrascaria (steakhouse) sign you see and you'll be eating grilled meat until
you raise the white flag.
It's commonly served on an "all you can eat basis" which basically means a
group of waiters walking around and slicing meat straight from the skewer
onto your plate until you drop dead or just about.
Brazilians were the first to raise cattle in South America, imported from Cape Verde to São Paulo in the 1530s. Churrasco
(pronounced shoo-RAS-koo) or Brazilian barbecue was the traditional staple food of the gaúchos or cowboys of Southern
Brazil for centuries before it spread to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. It has become very fashionable and there are
excellent churrascarias (restaurants specializing in Brazilian barbecue) all over Brazil and around the world. These are
called churrascaria de rodízio because waiters move from table to table bringing different types of meats on skewers from
which they slice portions onto your plate.
The meat was originally cooked over coals, usually in a pit dug in the ground, skewered in metal spits. The only seasoning
was coarse salt and each gaúcho had his own churrasco knife which he used to cut pieces of meat from the spit. People
in southern Brazil have churrasco pits built in their backyards with bricks or incorporated into a wall with decorative tiles
around the edges. (In the U.S., you can use a gas grill.)
The meats used most often are Brazilian sausages, different cuts of beef, pork tenderloin, and chicken. you can use
chouriço or a good spicy pork sausage if you can't find Brazilian sausages, t-bone steaks and sirloin strips, chicken thighs
and drumsticks, and the pork tenderloin or pork chops. In Brazil, there'll be chicken hearts, turkey breast, different cuts of
meat wrapped in bacon or filled with cheese, etc.
White meats are marinated overnight in a mixture of garlic, salt, and lime juice. The red meats are seasoned with sea salt
only. There are two traditional methods for doing this (we prefer the first one): press a good amount of salt into the sides
of the meat and once the meat is cooked knock it off with the side of a large knife, or baste the meat with salt water using
a bunch of parsley or bay leaves as a brush.
You would have thought that after eating all the meat on Saturday evening, it would be months before I touched beef
again...well we had a nice piece of sirloin and I thought I would try this recipe tonight. It was very simple to prepare and
the results were a super tender and moist piece of meat. I served it with Cuban Black Beans and Jasmine rice on the side.
We also grilled a pineapple that was marinated in a little brown sugar and cinnamon and then finished with some lime
juice. It too, was very good!
The Recipe
Traditional Churrasco
This is the traditional Brazilian recipe for grilled beef on skewers. The salt-water baste keeps the meat moist and delicious
while it cooks without adding as much salt as you might think.
•1 kg beef tenderloin
•2 tablespoons kosher salt
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•1 cup hot water
Preheat grill. Cut tenderloin into about six pieces. Reduce heat and place tenderloin pieces on the grill. As the meat
started to cook dissolve the salt in the water and add the garlic. When the meat is browned on the outside baste. Keep
basting throughout until the meat is done. Almost any kind of meat can be used for this recipe. If you wish you can place
the pieces on a rotisserie.