Episode 311: South American Smoke
Brazilian Churrasco (Mixed Grill)Steven Raichlen
Churrasco is the national barbecue of Brazil, where spit-roasting has been raised to the level of art. Think whole meal cooked on a rotisserie and don’t think of a barbecue season without it.
Simply defined, churrasco is a Brazilian mix grill with the meats cooked on a rotisserie. Some people believe that the word churrasco comes from Spanish, socarras, meaning to burn or singe. You know, the socarrat, that burnt crusty part on the bottom of a paella pan that everybody wants. So from socarrat to churrasco? Well, it’s an easy leap if you drink enough caipirinhas.
It starts with a cut of beef you probably haven’t heard of. It’s called picanha in Brazilian and top capped sirloin in the U.S., and it’s actually the top piece of sirloin with this thick cap of fat. Next is a chicken that has been marinated in salt, pepper, and garlic with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Mini bell peppers, sausages, and onion on skewers finish off the mixed grill.
More Brazilian Barbecue Recipes:
- Brazilian Beer Chicken
- Brazilian Rotisserie Pineapple
- Brazilian Rib Roast Stuffed With Chorizo & Cheese With Ember-Roasted Salsa
Brazilian Churrasco (Mixed Grill)
- Advance Prep: 1 to 2 hours for marinating the chicken
- Yield: Serves 8 to 10
- Method: Rotisserie/spit-roasting
For the chicken:
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley (optional)
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
For the beef:
- 1 4-pound piece top sirloin cap (picanha), fat trimmed to 1/2 inch
For the kielbasa:
- 1-1/2 pounds kielbasa sausage, cut into 3-inch lengths
For the vegetables:
- 12 or more baby bell peppers, mixed colors
- 2 medium onions, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Molho a Campanha (Brazilian country salsa), for serving (see recipe)
Step 1: Make the marinade for the chicken: In a small mixing bowl, combine the garlic, cilantro or parsley, if using, lime juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper and whisk to mix. Place the chicken thighs in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over them. Seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, turning the bag occasionally so the thighs marinate evenly.
Step 2: In the meantime, trim the sirloin cap of any silverskin. Slice it crosswise against the grain into 2-inch-wide pieces. Season generously on all sides with salt and pepper, then form into a “C” shape with the fat cap on the outside. Skewer the pieces of meat through the bottom and top sides to maintain the “C” shape.
Step 3: Skewer the kielbasa and the vegetables on separate skewers. Brush the onions on all sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Step 4: Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade (discard the marinade) and pat dry with paper towels. Skewer the chicken thighs.
Step 5: If you have a Brazilian-style rotisserie, like a Carson, set it up according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Build a wood or charcoal fire and preheat to medium-high (400 degrees). Insert the skewers in the sockets, beef and kielbasa on the top row, chicken, onions, and peppers on the bottom row. Spit-roast until each is cooked to taste: about 35 to 40 minutes for the chicken and onions, 45 minutes for the beef, and 30 minutes for the peppers and kielbasa. Rotate the skewers every 10 minutes or so (or as needed) so each ingredient spends some time close to the coals. You may need longer or shorter cooking times, depending on the heat of your fire. Cook the chicken through (to an internal temperature of 165 degrees). Serve the beef crusty on the outside and medium-rare (130 to 135 degrees) inside.
Step 6: Serve the meats with the salsa.
Note: if you don’t have a Brazilian-style rotisserie, skewer each ingredient on flat metal skewers. Direct grill over a 2-zone fire (one zone hot—600 degrees; one zone medium-hot (400 degrees), laying the skewers directly on the grate. Start with the beef, onions, and peppers directly over the hot fire, the chicken and kielbasa over the medium-hot fire. Rotate the skewers so each ingredient is exposed to both the hot and medium-hot fire. There’s no need to serve all the skewers at one time; part of the pleasure of a Brazilian barbecue is that it lasts all afternoon and into the evening.
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Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2017 Barbacoa, Inc.