Thursday, May 1, 2008

How to make Churrasco

I love to Barbecue, I've told many of my friends about my particular favorite form of barbecue, but few have been able to come over and try it.  Here I will describe the process for making Brazilian Churrasco, I hope that you are able to try it.  Let me know what you think.

It all starts with the meat.  Now it is difficult to get the best Brazilian cuts of beef here in the states, but if you are a purist you can go to a butcher and ask him for Brazilian Picanha.  In Tucson they can do it at American Meat Company on South Fourth Avenue.  Usually I just use either Top Sirloin or Tri-tip as both do fine.  Actually I've used whatever meat is on sale when we want to go cheap and it always turns out OK.  The important thing to remember is that the meat has to be very marbleized.  In other words you want a lot of fat running through the meat.  This will make it juicy and tender.  Lay the meat out on a large cutting board and cut it into approximate stake size pieces.  If the meat is thicker than an inch, butterfly it so that it will cook quicker and more uniformly.

The other ingredient is salt.  Putting salt on the meat does not dry it out as I thought it would, but it locks the moisture into the meat and makes for a very juicy steak.  Salt is also a natural tenderizer.  I have found that the best salt to use for Churrasco is Kruger brand Kosher salt.  It comes in a purple box.  Sprinkle the salt onto all sides of the meat liberally but don't overdue it.  It may take you a few tries to learn exactly how much salt to use.  You can use other coarse salts but I would not use table (or any other fine) salts.

The secret ingredient is Onion.  I learned this trick from a back yard barbecuer in Brazil.  Before you cook the meat (I put the onion on before the salt but it doesn't matter).  Cut an onion in half and use a cheese grater to shred the onion over the meat.  Just a little is all it takes.  I use about a third of an onion when cooking for six people.  The onion will caramelize on the grill and give the meat just a hint of sweet flavor.  This will take the edge off the saltiness and your guests will be amazed.

Grilling:  Light the grill right before your guests arrive and let it get pretty hot.  If you have a smoker box fill it with wet mesquite for that unique Arizona flavor.  Bring a clean cutting board out to the grill and a couple sharp knives and a fork, along with a pair of tongs.  Place your meat fat side up and let it cook.  It will sear very quickly.  Turn the meat as soon as you see blood rising to the top.  Even if you like your meat well done, keep it as rare as you can tolerate.  Well done meat becomes very dry and the salt makes it tougher the longer it cooks.  When your meat is done, I pull mine when it is still red in the middle, take it off piece by piece and cut it into small strips.

In order to really appreciate churrasco you must eat some of it right off the grill.  When I make it, I assume half will never see the table, this is how it is done in Brazil also.  Put the cut pieces on a plate and have someone take it around to your guests.  But don't forget that as the griller, you must consume the best pieces yourself.   Serve the rest at the table with rice and beans,  See my wife's blog for some side dishes.  I like a robust red wine, such as merlot, or stout beer, such as Fat Tire, with churrasco, but my wife insists it must be accompanied with Coke.  Either way you will want to have plenty of water available for your guests as the salt will make everyone thirsty.

There are a lot of people who will disagree with me about some of the finer points, and I'm sure lots of Brazilians will accuse me of "Americanizing" their beloved dish, but it's about the people you eat it with.  Don't worry about it, invite people you love over and enjoy.


Ryan J said...

that's a nice looking piece of meat! What is an appropriate side for something like that??

rugger341 said...

Rice see VV's blog for a recipe. Also some cut up tomatoes like pico de gallo but without the jalepenos.

colloquium said...

I'm looking forward to try a slice of the best Arizona picanha! After reading your state of art "how to make a churrasco", I'm sure it tastes much better than Moacir's.

Christiane Lopes said...

Why don`t u come to San Francisco so we can enjoy the "churrasco" together. We are still waiting for u guys on the holiday on May.
See u in 2 weeks.