Last night I was invited for dinner at a friend’s house, on the menu “Carreteiro”, a traditional peasant dish from the state of Rio Grande do Sul (southern Brazil). Carreteiro means carriege (or wagon, or coach) driver, and is presently used as a reference to the large truck drivers.The basic idea behind the dish is to keep it cheap, simple, easy and fast to prepare, but at the same time nutritious. Something that even a wagoner or truck driver could do during a short stop.
The most traditional recipe calls for a dried beef (known as “charque”), as no refrigeration was available for these workers, but it can also be prepared with sausages. Last night my friend used a smoked German style sausage (similar to “mettwurst“).
The other basic ingredient is rice, and thus it may seem similar to risotto. Nevertheless, differently from its Italian cousin, the rice is left alone during cooking, so that starch is not released (truck drivers usually don’t want to spend their time stirring rice). The final result is a quite looser, but still moist, rice. These days, with the risotto invasion, unfortunately there has been a tendency to make carreteiro and risotto look and taste more and more similar. Even some strange ingredients like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce or ketchup have been added. Diced tomatoes are added in some recipes.
Chop the sausages in small irregular cubes (around 0,5 cm). In a cast iron casserole lay 2 spoons of oil (originally pork fat – “banha”) and fry for a couple of minutes some diced onion and garlic. Add the sausage and fry it for another couple of minutes. Then, add the rice, fry it for one minute, pour boiling water and salt to taste. Now, leave the room! Resist the temptation of stirring the rice like in a risotto. Let the low heat do its job. Leave the lid a bit open giving room to steam. Add water if needed. When ready (rice al dente) remove from the heat, close the lid, and let the carreteiro rest for another couple of minutes. The cooking processes should take around 15-20 min. Remember, no stirring. As I’ve said, the rice should be loose but moist. Serve with freshly chopped parsley, spring onions and hard boiled egg.
As a side dish we had a green leaves salad with dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.