Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Food and Fellowship

Ah, Brazilian food! I love it so. I never met a Brazilian food I didn't like... but I think half of what made it so good was eating it with good company.

I've posted a couple of recipes I learned from Carla previously on the neighborhood chili blog--feijoada, vinaigrette salad, Brazilian rice, farofa, and brigadeiro. Speaking of which, on Sunday, September 12, my neighborhood will be having our 22nd annual chili cookoff! (This is why we have a chili blog, by the way.) Come on over if you want to have some fun and eat a lot of chili. End digression. On to the recipes.

Let's start with the basics. All of these are on the other blog, but since they're really common and foundational for other stuff, I'm posting them again here.

Marinade (also known as Carla’s Special Mixture)
This mixture is the foundation of Brazilian cooking—so Carla tells me.
In a blender or food processor, blend the following until smooth: olive oil, cilantro, parsley, green onions, garlic, and onion. Store extra in the freezer.

Brazilian Rice
Heat olive oil in a pot, and add some of Carla’s Special Mixture; mix and allow to heat. Rinse long grain rice in a sieve. Add rice, fry for a little while and mix to combine with oil. Add water (1 c. rice to 1 ¼ c. water) and cook according to package directions.

Vinaigrette Salad
This is similar to salsa, and is an essential garnish with many dishes.
Finely chop 1 ½ green bell peppers, 2 tomatoes, 1 red onions, 2 green onions, parsley, and cilantro. Mix together with ½ c. water and ½ c. balsamic vinegar.

On to the main course...

Brazilian BBQ
Our first night in Brazil, as previously mentioned, we had homemade Brazilian BBQ! Carla taught us how to marinate the meat a few years ago in Vancouver, and we learned the art of grilling from her dad.

Preparing the meat:
Marinate chicken and pork by adding some of Carla's Special Mixture to white wine and water, then add the meat and allow it to sit for an hour.

To prepare the beef, choose sirloin steaks (or picanha if you can get it) with nice rings of fat around the outside. Tenderize them with the meat hammer, and rub them with coarse salt immediately before grilling.

Grilling basics:
Traditionally all the meat is cooked rotisserie style on big skewers in a barbecue “oven” over a charcoal fire (in this case, actual charred wood), as you see in the pictures. Carla's dad carefully prepared the coals, starting with one bag and a couple of wax fire starters, and gradually adding more until there were about 3 bags, and the coals were evenly glowing. The oven set-up meant that the heat came from all around the meat, so it cooked evenly. And it was juicy and tender and flavorful... best bbq we've ever had. (Sorry, vegetarians.)

A charcoal grill with wood chips (and standard American style charcoal briquettes) will suffice (albeit poorly) in the absence of a Brazilian style bbq "oven."

Caught mid-chew...

We also had restaurant-style Brazilian bbq at Baby Beef, which is one of the best steakhouses in Belo Horizonte. The waiters come around to the table with skewers of meat, and they cut off for you the piece you want--all you can eat! The salad bar was amazing, too.

Keith thought Carla's daddy's bbq was the best, though.

So, what do you do when you have leftover bbq meat? I learned this dish by watching Carla's mom in the kitchen...

This is the leftover meat. Not the dish to which I was referring.

Carreteiro Arroz (Trucker’s Rice/Leftover BBQ and Rice)
Heat olive oil; sauté chopped onion and minced garlic. Add leftover BBQ meat, cut into bite-sized pieces and some long-grain rice and sauté a bit more. Cover with water to the top of the meat and rice mixture; cook until the water disappears. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool a bit. Add more water and cook until the water is gone and the rice is tender but not mushy.

Enjoying our Carreteiro Arroz together
Here's what else was on the table.
A couple more side dishes:

Mixed Vegetable Salad
Chop smoked ham and bell peppers of different colors. Mix with a bag of frozen mixed veggies (that have been cooked) and raisins. Just before serving, add deep fried potato sticks, and toss to coat with mayo. 

Preheat the pot until it’s very hot. Add some oil (which will smoke—that’s okay). Add some minced garlic, then fine-shredded kale (like sauerkraut). Cook until the kale wilts. Don’t cover it, or the kale will lose its color and the flavor will suffer.

Carla's mom prepares the kale using a soapstone pot.
Feijao Tropeiro (Fancy Farofa with Beans)
This is a traditional dish of Minas Gerais, the state where Carla and her family live. I also learned this one by watching Carla's mom and taking notes.

Heat oil, sauté some sliced onion and minced garlic. Scramble an egg or 2 in the pot, until they are cooked. Add sliced sausage, a couple scoops of cooked brown beans, and salt. Mix well. Then add a few cups of toasted cassava flour; mix well. Add more oil if necessary. Mix in some chopped green onion and turn off the heat. Drizzle with olive oil, cover, and let it sit for a bit.

Here we have Brazilian rice, vinaigrette (the stuff that looks like salsa), kale, Feijao Tropeiro, a sausage, and a delicious chicken dish which Carla invented on the spot.
We also had great stuff for breakfast, especially fruit and different kinds of bread and cheese. Keith especially like the oranges.

One last Brazil picture that didn't really fit anywhere else...

It was fun! Thanks so much to all of our hosts in Brazil!

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