Meat: For Serious Carnivores Only
One of My FAVORITE Sausages: Linguiça
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Vegetarians Be Warned!
Let’s talk about beef. In Florence (all of Tuscany, actually), one of the best cuts of meat that money could buy was the Bistecca alla Fiorentina - a tender T-bone steak that comes from the ancient breed of cow known as Chianina. Because of its organic, grass fed diet, this cow produces lean meat. The steaks are fresh since they are aged for only a week or two, and served quite rare to retain the juices. The flavor is delicious, especially when paired with a fine Chianti Classico. Remember: never overcook lean meats because doing so will make them dry and tough.
I lived in São Paulo, Brazil briefly before moving to Italy. Since I was single at the time and always on the go, my meals tended to be very simple: lots of fruits, stir-fried veggies, and big salads. Brazil boasts an incredible variety of fruits and vegetables (some that you probably have never seen or heard of before, but that’s another hub- let’s get back to meat). Now that I live in the south of Brazil and I am married to a Gaucho, mere salads will not do. This is serious meat territory.
My husband is of Italian descent, but born in the metropolitan city of Porto Alegre (Happy Port), the capital of Rio Grande do Sul. Outside this coastal city, several kilometers inland towards the west is where the Gaucho cowboys live and raise cattle. Many of you have probably heard of the term “Brazilian Barbecue” or if you live in the USA, you may know the restaurant chain called Fogo de Chão. Go ahead and check out their site (I bet you'll want to try it out after looking at the menu and yummy photos): http://www.fogodechao.com/
Fogo de chão literally means fire of the ground or in English, a fire pit. The term is derived from the tradition that the Gaucho cowboys have of building a fire to cook meat when they are in the great outdoors herding cattle. After eating their meal, they mount their horses and get back to work. Very macho stuff. You don’t see that sort of thing going on in the city, of course.
In Brazil, the cuts are different than in USA or Europe. The two best cuts of beef that money can buy here are Alcatra (al-kah-tra) and Picanha (pee-kah-ña). Since Arabs lived in Portugal during the early middle ages, it is not surprising that several Portuguese words contain Arab roots. Alcatra is the Arabic word for piece. In the Azores, Alcatra is the name of a delicious, savory stew made with various pieces of beef (round, shank, chuck), but in Brazil, Alcatra is a special cut incorporating Rump / Top Sirloin. And this cut originated right here in Rio Grande do Sul. Alcatra can be cooked like a whole pot roast, or cut into steaks and grilled.
Picanha is Top Sirloin and considered to be the best cut of meat from the cow due to its flavor. In Brazil, many prefer this cut to Fillet Mignon (it's really that good). The most popular way to prepare this tasty steak is to rub it down with rock salt and grill it over fire until the fat melts and crisps (is your mouth watering yet???).
Last, but not least, is one of my barbeque favorites: Linguiça (leen-gwee-sah). It is not a cut of meat, but rather, a seasoned sausage native of Portugal and the Azores- oh, and it is my favorite sausage in the world. I tried so hard to find linguiça when we lived in Italy, but did not find any. In the USA, however, if you live in or near a Portuguese community (like I did), you can find this sausage everywhere- you can even order it as a pizza topping! When grilled, linguiça is delicious eaten alone or as a sandwich with fresh, rustic bread. Yum! So, are you ready to fire up your barbeque and start grilling? Thank you for reading!
C. De Melo