A Pittsburgh native, I’m fiercely proud of our city and its not-heralded-enough cuisine. And yet, when my boyfriend, Will, suggested we move to his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, it was hard to resist. He whispered such sweet nothings in my ear: I love you, he said, and things are open after eight. And so I bid a tearful tchau to the 24-Hour Eat’n Park and headed south.
I began experiencing Brazilian cuisine through its numerous corner cafés. They serve many baked snacks, including coxinha de frango, deep-fried balls of dough filled with seasoned and shredded chicken. The balls come to a crest at the top, looking like teardrops from a god I could believe in.
One night, Will said he was making stroganoff; I prepared to choke down the brown beef and mushroom stew the Russians invented to survive the tundra. I was pleasantly surprised when he brought out Brazilian stroganoff: a more optimistically colored chicken stew seasoned with tomato sauce and garlic and topped with shredded potato chips. This was my kind of country.
My next culinary experience came at a birthday party where the host served feijoada, Brazil’s national dish. Feijoada is a bean-based stew containing several different types of Brazil’s famous salted meats; it’s prepared in a pressure cooker and typically served at family gatherings or special occasions. It was, in a word, delicious.
The feijoada was accompanied by a churrasco, the Brazilian term for barbecue. Brazil is a more advanced society, barbecue-wise, than the States; instead of waiting for all of the meat to be “done,” Brazilians serve a rotating cornucopia throughout the night. As soon as one type of meat was ready, our churrasco-master made a lap of the room with the skewer. Then it was right back to the grill – he’d be back with a new skewer in minutes.
Both feijoada and churrasco are served with farofa, a toasted cassava flour mixture. Farofa is omnipresent in Brazilian culture; I once attended a party titled “Death by Farofa.” It’s divisive in my “Americans in Brazil” Facebook group, where members debate its culinary value and lament this country’s lack of Double Stuf Oreos. I love it because it adds the same saltiness and crunch like the breadcrumbs on my grandma’s mac and cheese.
I’ve also gotten a taste of Brazil through their buffets. Whereas American buffets tend to be sit-down, all-you-can-eat affairs (again, with gratitude to Eat’ n Park), Rio’s buffets have you pay by weight and offer to-go containers. I invariably make my way to the desserts table, where I’ve become fond of pudim de leite. A Brazilian take on flan, this condensed-milk delicacy rarely makes it back to my apartment.
CHICKEN STROGANOFF RECIPE
1 kg chicken breast, cut in cubes
½ clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp of butter
2 cups of tomato sauce
300 g of table cream
In a saucepan, combine a drizzle of olive oil with chicken, garlic, salt and pepper. In a large skillet, melt the butter and brown the onion. Add the seasoned chicken until golden. Add the tomato sauce and a bit of water. Add the table cream and remove from the heat before boiling. Serve with white rice and shredded potato chips.
2 onions, chopped
10 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
100 g smoked bacon, cut into slices
3 calabrese or chorizo sausages
250 g pork shoulder, cut into cubes
500 g black beans, soaked overnight, then drained
In a large pressure cooker, over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic. Crush the bay leaves and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes.
Add all your meats. Continue to cook for 4 to 6 minutes. Add the beans and water. Wait for the pressure cooker to gain pressure, reduce the heat to medium-low and wait 30 to 35 minutes.
Release the pressure from the cooker and add water if necessary to keep the beans covered; wait for it to boil. Re-season with salt and pepper as needed.
Serve with white rice, kale, and farofa.
A 500 g piece picanha (top sirloin cap)
500 g of chicken thighs
250 g of pork sausages (no seasoning needed)
Salt, black pepper, and garlic to season
Grill all the meats until cooked to your liking. Serve with white rice, farofa, lettuce salad, and potato salad.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
100 g of bacon, cut finely into small cubes
2 cups of manioc (cassava) flour
2 tbsp of butter, room-temperature
Fry the garlic and onion in oil for about 2 minutes. Add the chopped bacon.
Remove from the heat and stir in the manioc flour. Add the butter.
Mix until manioc flour absorbs all the bacon oil and butter.
STORY AND RECIPE BY RAMSEY DANIELS / STYLING BY LAURA GOBLE / PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSIAH HULL
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