Tag Archives: parrillada

That’s BBQ

16 Nov

I’ve read dozens of blog posts about barbecue and the art of cooking various types of meat with the heat produced by a wooden fire or with the use of charcoal. I’ve even written a few lines myself on this subject (see From the heart, “Churrasco” – the Brazilian BBQ and Parrillada in Uruguay). Nevertheless, nothing prepared me for what I saw last Sunday – a gigantic BBQ made with around 1,500 pounds of ribs by my friend Tito. Yes, that’s right, 1,500 pounds of ribs, not to mention the additional 100 pounds of various other cuts and sausages.

This BBQ, or “churrasco de chão” in Portuguese, is a typical “gaucho” preparation, and can be found throughout the pampas region, from Southern Brazil to Southern Argentina (where it’s known as “asado”). Whole ribs ( or “rib windows” as they are called in this area of Brazil), each one weighting around 20 pounds, are placed in vertical iron spikes which are then stuck into the ground at a certain distance from a huge open air fire.

The only seasoning employed was coarse sea salt, and around 25 pounds of it were consumed.

Coarse sea salt was the only seasoning used

Seasoning - coarse sea salt only

The fire was lit around 7:00 a.m. and the meat started to cook around one hour later, when the 5 cubic meters of wood had already produced a nice amount of charcoal.

Overview - BBQ with 1,500 pounds of ribs

Overview - around 1,500 pounds of ribs being grilled

Just before serving, around 4 hours later, the salt was beaten off the meat and the “windows” cut into small pieces by skilful “gauchos”.


Ready to serve.


Tito (Gabriel Molon) proud of his BBQ

I should mention that I don’t recommend you to try this at home, unless you can guarantee that: (1) You have a huge enough garden where you can set tables for around 1,000 people, (2) The process is going to be coordinated by a professional who makes a living preparing food for the crowds, like my friend Tito.

Watch a video of the event on YouTube.

Barbecuing on Foodista


From the heart

20 Oct

How about a food that is low in sodium, as well as a good source of folate, pantothenic acid, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of protein, riboflavin, vitamin B12, iron and zinc? Well, nothing is perfect, it has also a high cholesterol content. But, to compensate that, besides being very nutritious it’s also dam tasty.

Chicken hearts, that’s what I’m talking about. In Brazil, they are a mandatory presence in a BBQ, as appetizers, specially in the southern areas of the country.

Chicken hearts

Chicken hearts

Last Sunday I took 1,0 kg (around 2,0 pounds) of chicken hearts, trimmed the excess fat (remember, it’s high in cholesterol), seasoned with salt and pepper, and placed them in a special device I received as a gift from my friend Renan. It’s like a cylindric grill that you fill with chicken hearts and place over the fire turning around now and then to get an even cooking.

Speciall grill for chicken hearts

Cylindric grill for chicken hearts (Posing for pictures out of the fire. Yes, that on the back are pork ribs)

After around 45-60 min they are ready. In Brazil we usually serve them with manioc flour and an ice cold beer (even though I prefer a red wine).

Grilled chicken hearts with manioc flour

Grilled chicken hearts with manioc flour

Ok, let’s assume you don’t have such a cylindric grill, nor a Brazilian style BBQ pit, but you still would like to try some chicken hearts (and I recommend you to do that). Then maybe you can take a look at the 1956 grilled chicken heart recipe from the father of American gastronomy, James Beard (yes, some of us have heard of him in Brazil).


Chicken Heart on Foodista

Uruguay, more than “parrillas”

25 Sep

If you’ve been following this blog you must have noticed my appreciation for a neighbouring country, Uruguay (I live in southern Brazil and only around 200 km from the Uruguayan border).  I’ve written about “parrilladas“, the national Uruguayan dish, as well as about my fishing experience in the Salto Grande dam.  Let’s return to this lovely town.

Salto (official site here – sorry, only in Spanish), was stablished in 1756 by the governor José Joaquim de Viana, who was on a mission related to the settlement of frontiers between Spanish and Portuguese colonies.  Salto faced a great population increase after 1860, with the arrival of  European settlers, specially  from Italy, Spain and Portugal.  Around Salto, one of the largest touristic destination in Uruguay, you can find several hot spring areas, particularly “Termas de Dayman” (around 15 km south of Salto) and “Termas de Arapey” (around 90 km north of Salto).

"Termas de Dayman" (hot springs around 15 km south of Salto/Uruguay)

"Termas de Dayman" (hot springs around 15 km south of Salto/Uruguay)

Today, with around 100,000 inhabitants, Salto maintains a charming and relaxing atmosphere.

Downtown Salto/Uruguay

Downtown Salto/Uruguay

Walking around downtown with my wife and some friends (Renan and Leila), on a beautiful  summer day, my attention was called by a small restaurant called “La Trattoria” (Calle Uruguay, 754 – GPS:  S31 23.245 W57 57.969), a clear reminder of the Italians who arrived after 1860.

La Trattoria - downtown Salto/Uruguay

La Trattoria - downtown Salto/Uruguay

We walked in and let me tell you, no regrets.  The food was very well prepared and the house wine just up to the Uruguayan tradition.  One distinctive feature of Uruguayan wine production is the Tannat, a red grape generally ignored in the rest of the New World but very important in this small and wonderful country.  It matched just fine the meat lasagna (a la Bolognesa), plenty of muzzarela and a rich tomato sauce.  Final price? Around US$12,00/person, wine included.

Lasagna form "La Trattoria" - Salto/Uruguay

Lasagna form "La Trattoria" - Salto/Uruguay

The whole experience in Salto was a definitive proof that Uruguay has much more to offer than just “parrilladas” (although they continue to be my favorite Uruguayan creation).

Tannat Grapes on Foodista
Lasagna on Foodista

“Churrasco”, the Brazilian BBQ

3 Sep

The most southern Brazilian state is Rio Grande do Sul, the larger part of which, as well as parts of Uruguay and Argentina, is covered by the pampas.  From these flat lands, with a vegetation which favours cattle raising, comes some of the best meat in the world.

Using this wonderful meat, the “gauchos”, designation of the South American cowboys as well as residents of the Rio Grande do Sul state, developed a particular way to prepare BBQ, here called “churrasco”:  plenty of meat, coarse sea salt as condiment and wood or charcoal fire.  If you season the meat with anything different from salt, or if you don’t use wood or charcoal, you can’t call that a “churrasco”. And this is not a matter of opinion, it’s the law.  And when I say the law, I mean it.  This whole thing is so important in Rio Grande do Sul that it has found its place in the state legislation (State Law RS no. 11,929/2003).

The Brazilian “churrasco” is equivalent to the “parrillada” in Uruguay and Argentina, also prepared by “gauchos”.

One of the most common beef cuts employed are ribs, which are slowly grilled, at times for more than 6 hours, resulting in a very, very tender meat that almost detaches itself from the bone.  Nevertheless, due to high fat content, the meat remains juicy and tasty. You can see here a young fellow preparing “picanha” (rump steak, I believe), another common cut (notice the fat and the amount of salt used).

Well, ribs are what I had for dinner last night over Renan’s house, a very nice friend who remembered me when he decided to prepare some “churrasco”.

The "churrasco" pit ("churrasqueira") with some pork sausages and the beef ribs

The "churrasco" pit ("churrasqueira") with some pork sausages and the beef ribs (note that the ribs are grilled with the bone side down, being turned only 10-15 min before serving)

The perfect rib after a couple of hours over the fire: very tender and juicy

The perfect rib after a couple of hours over the fire: very tender and juicy

Hope Renan keeps remembering me for quite a long time.

Beef Rib on Foodista

Parrillada in Uruguay

1 Jun

You may throw the first stone if your mouth has never watered with the sight of a perfectly grilled New York strip or  rump steak. Well, if you are in Uruguay I`m 100% sure that no stones will be thrown, as it is virtually impossible to resist a “parrillada”.  Grilling is taken so seriously in Uruguay that even before building their own houses they build the “parrillas” (the grills).

A typical home "parrilla"

A typical home "parrilla"

But what makes the Uruguayans “parrillas” so special?  As Chuck Stull summarizes, describing the process, as developed by his friend Tito:  “As the logs burn, (in the firebox on the left) coals drop onto the brick floor of the “parrilla”. Tito then uses a poker to spread the coals under the grate holding the food. Fewer coals (on the right side of the grill) keep the temperature lower for slow cooking. Closer to the fire, it’s hotter. The grate can also be angled upward for more temperature control. New logs in the firebox replenish the supply of hot coals, so extended cooking is straightforward. Potatoes go on top of the grill wrapped in foil and sweet potatoes go directly into the coals under the fire. Everything tastes great.”

Since the food is cooked only on fully burned charcoal, there is less smoke and hence the taste is much more preserved.

Commercial “parrillas” are, of course, much larger than the one depicted in the above picture, and can be found all over Uruguay.  All I have to do is to drive a couple of hours (as I live a little bit more than 200 km from the Uruguayan border) and find myself in the city of Chuy where I can mix pleasure with pleasure, that is, I can simultaneously enjoy a “parrilla” and do some wonderful shopping.

Chuy is a small town with a population of around 10,000.  Although rather small it’s a busy commercial area, as the government allowed the existence of several duty-free shops, making the trip a not to be missed opportunity for buying electronics, perfumes and, what brings me here most often, wine (specially from Chile and Argentina, but also from Italy, France and a few other countries).

Duty-free shops in Chuy/Uruguay

Duty-free shops in Chuy/Uruguay

What I usually come here for

What I usually come here for

The “parrillas” found in Chuy are not among the best ones, specially considering what you can find in Montevideo, for example (I’ll write a bit about them at another occasion), but the meat in Uruguay is always of top quality.  This time I went to “Entrecot”, a new “parrilla” right at the main street (Av. Brasil – GPS: 33.693023 Lat S, 53.452445 Long W) (Please, check the “update” at the end of this post).

To prepare a “parrillada” all you need is good meat (Uruguay is plenty of that), sea salt and the “parrilla”, of course.  If you want to see a movie on the process take a look at http://comida-y-bebida.practicopedia.com/como-hacer-una-parrillada-326

For lunch I had some traditional cuts, like ribs and a New York strip, and also adventured myself into “rinones” (kidneys), “chinchulin” (intestines) “molleja” (tymus gland) (these are the first 3 meats put on the grill in the above video) and “morcilla” (blood sausage).

The "parrilla" and the chef at "Entrecot" steak house

The "parrilla" and the chef at "Entrecot" steak house

Overview of available cuts

Overview of available cuts

A few cuts to start with

A few cuts to start with

We paid US$ 15,00/person for a service of the type “eat as much as you can”, including beer.  A real bargain.

UPDATE: Last weekend (December 5th, 2009) I’ve returned to Chuy looking for some Christmas gifts, and once again had lunch at “Entrecot”.  Don’t waste your time, the place is simply terrible now.  Bad, really bad.  Guess I’ll have to look for other options.  It seems that “Spetu’s”, on the Brazilian side of the border, is the place to eat now.  Haven’t been there though.

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