If you are married to a Brazilian, or are friends with Brazilians, you have probably now learned that as soon the weather permits you to go shirtless outside, and if there is a day that you aren’t working and the sun’s out – you’re grilling. But Brazilian grilling, or churrasco (shoo-HA-sko) is not like American grilling. There are no hamburgers, there are no buns, and you don’t wait until all the food is cooked to sit around a big picnic table together to eat. When the Brazilians grill, it is a continuous event of adding meat to the grill, slicing it as soon as it’s cooked, and passing it around to the entire party (wherever they may be), slice by slice, on a platter or the cutting board it was sliced on. The process is very communal, and there is never a break in the party/conversation/festivities to gather everyone up and sit them down at a dining table.
The meat that most people think of when they hear the word “churrasco” (okay, maybe not everyone has heard that word) is picanha, or the “c” shaped cut of meat, with a big huge strip of fat on it, squeezed onto a big skewer. Picanha (pee-KAHN-ya) is probably the most delicious cut of beef I’ve ever had in my life, and good news – you CAN find it outside of a Brazilian Steakhouse restaurant. Picanha is the top part of the top sirloin. If you don’t have access to a specialty or South/Central American market that is familiar with picanha, ask the butcher to cut you a “rump cover” (nice), “rump cap” or “sirloin culotte”.
You can ask the butcher to slice it for you, or you can slice it at home. You want to cut it so each slice has a strip of fat on one side. You can cut off the fat after grilling (we always do), but Brazilians LOVE that fat. It’s kind of a delicacy.
When Fabio first grilled up a piece of picanha for me to try, I was STUNNED that it was only seasoned with rock salt. It is so flavorful and so juicy, it tastes like it must have been made with an expensive, secret, sought-after spice mix that only native Brazilians have access to. Just salt, ladies and gentleman. Most churrasco uses rock salt (which is super, SUPER course), but Fabio prefers to use either Kosher salt or course sea salt. Both of those are easy to find in any grocery store – well, any grocery store I’ve ever been in. By using course salt, it helps to sear in the flavor of the meat while grilling. And boy oh boy, does it sear in that flavor. Sprinkle the meat with salt before grilling, on both sides, and then you can sprinkle more once it’s on the grill. You’ll be surprised that it’s hard to over-salt.
Once the picanha is cooked through, remove it from the grill and let it rest for a minute on the cutting board. When it comes to slicing, the key to really, really tender picanha is to slice it very thin with a super sharp knife. I always thought describing meat as “melt in your mouth” was baloney until I tried a perfectly cooked, thin slice of picanha.
Aside from grilling meat, the pièce de résistance of Brazilian churraso, Fabio and I finally perfected our method for grilling veggies (our American addition). Rather than having 2/3 of the asparagus and sliced zucchini slip through the grate (don’t you hate that??) we make an aluminum foil pouch to steam/grill the veggies so that they cook all the way through and still get charred. YUM.
In a large bowl or on a sheet pan, mix your favorite veggies to grill. We love sliced onion, zucchini, whole asparagus stalks, even carrots and sweet potatoes. (I wouldn’t recommend grilling eggplant this way, because it would get mushy. Just throw it straight on the grill.) Drizzle veggies with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you like. We recently used the Herbes de Provence from Hummus Chick – and it was GAME CHANGING. I highly recommend. Lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil, and lay your veggies on the center. Fold the foil in half, then crimp the edges so it is secure and the veggies won’t fall out – kind of like cooking en papillote.
Put the foil packet right on the grill and turn once, to ensure even grilling. Leave on the grill roughly 20 minutes, more if you are cooking firmer vegetables like carrots, broccoli, or sweet potato.
Another awesome way to grill veggies without having them all fall to the bottom of the grill is to put a sheet on aluminum foil right on the grill, then lay your veggies on top of the foil. The first time I saw Fabio do this I thought he was a genius. I swear, Brazilians are just born with genius grilling instincts.
Now, for my favorite part – EATIN’ IT. Part of Brazilian churrasco is all about the sides: salads, (beeeeeeeeer), cheese, rice and beans, etc. I made my own bowl of AMAZING:
All that deliciousness is hanging out on a nice bed of Brazilian Cauliflower Rice, which I posted in a recipe here!
This post is brought to you by Custom Concessions USA (link here: http://www.