Post # 8 Churrascaria

June 18, 2012 at 12:35 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Roughly translated from the portuguese, churrascaria means barbeque.  This is a Brazilian style of cooking that is not only a meal, but an event.  If you have a restaurant nearby that specializes in churrascaria, or Brazilian barbeque, make reservations immediately!  I first ran into this style of cooking and serving in Brazil, of all places, in Sao Paulo.

When you arrive, you’re seated at a table in a large open dining room.  At nearly all the churrascarias I’ve been to there is a huge salad bar.  By huge, I mean measured in the dozens of feets long with more side dishes than anyone could possible want.  Additionally, there is a soup station nearby.  The trick is to use this salad bar as an appetizer.  Do NOT fill up here because the main thrust of the dining experience is in the meats.  Typically, each table will receive a plate of garlic mashed potatoes, a plate of fried bananas, and a small bowl of pão de queijo, a Brazilian specialty of cheese wrapped in dough and fried.  It’s a phenomenal bite of food.  Don’t eat too much. (see pic 1)

Each diner is given a token.  I’ve had them as cards, or wooden pegs, or disks, but they’re all colored one side red and one side green.  Green means go; red means stop.  When you’re ready to eat, you flip the token to the green side.  Very soon, waiters called gauchos will come by offering to slice grilled meats off of swords directly onto your plate (see pic 2).  And the fun starts.  As long as your token is on the green side, they will keep coming to your table and offering meats.

The selection is amazing.  Predominantly, it is beef, and beef of the finest cut and quality.  There is also Brazilian sausage, a MUST HAVE!  It’s some of the best sausage I’ve had.  There is also chicken in various forms, plus chicken hearts, livers, et al.  Pork loin is also served.  Some restaurants have local specialties and lamb shows up once in a while.

The method of cooking is what makes this flavor so unique.  In the restaurant, there is the fire room.  A large wood fire is roaring in a pit in the center of the room.  Each cut of meat is skewered onto a sword.  Then each cut is liberally seasoned with salt only.  No other spices are used.  The sword is set leaning near the fire so the flames roast the outside, forming an amazing crust with the salt and meat juice (see pic 3).  When both sides are crusted and tasty, the gaucho takes the sword around the dining room and carves slices of meat directly onto the plates.  You get the wonderful crust, juicy meat, and spectacular flavor.  It doesn’t taste salty as most of the salt burns off, but there is enough seasoning left on the meat that the taste is perfect.

When you’re done, the primary server who sat you will take your token away.  If you’re still hungry when you leave this restaurant, it’s your own fault.

Here’s how I’ve found is the best way to recreate this flavor at home.  Get the best cut of beef you can afford, about one inch thick.  At room temperature, salt the meat liberally with a coarse salt, either from a salt grinder or use kosher salt.  Let the meat sit for thirty minutes as you’re preparing the grill.  Using a propane gas grill is best, but not necessary.  Heat the grill to its hottest.  Set your meat on the grill and don’t touch it for four minutes.  Turn the meat onto the hottest part of the grill since the cooking will have cooled the grill slightly where the meat sat.  Cook for four minutes.  Remove the meat, let rest no more than five minutes.  Serve piping hot with bread and/or salad.  Fantastic!

2 Comments

  1. I love these places, I also knew them as “Rodizios” quite and experience for meat lovers, but like you said the trick is not to fill up on the sides and just enjoy the meats. Their Fillet Mignon and liver happen to be one of my favorites!

  2. I’ve had this before at a nearby restaurant, very delious and filling. Excellent description , and I am getting hungry (stomach is growling).


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