Hello and welcome to Kitchen Catastrophe, the blog least likely to win an Olympic medal, unless synchronized insults becomes a competition. I’m your host and resident Costco Gold-Member , Jon O’Guin. If you couldn’t guess, today’s theme is the Olympics. Except not, because, honestly, the last time I honestly cared about an Olympic event is when I heard they were selling flavored cardboard in Beijing, and that was only because I was pissed I couldn’t sue them for copyright infringement. I invented Pringles first, you monsters. No, instead we’re going to talk about Brazil! Because I DO like talking about foreign cultures, I just don’t care about doing so through the framework of “So, which of us can hurl javelins the farthest?”
Which can hurl a javelina furthest, on the other hand, does interest me. I always dig a good pig toss.
Brazil, as we all know, was created in 1985, the brainchild of Terry Gilliam and Tom Stoppard, and is a darkly humorous dystopia. Wait, I’ve just received word that I was reading my cue card for the MOVIE Brazil, not the country. The COUNTRY was founded in 1922, and…is still a darkly humorous dystopia, given its recent governmental strife. (ZING!) Fun Fact: the current constitution of Brazil is actually younger than the movie Brazil.
All joking aside, Brazil is a fascinating nation: the VAST majority of Portuguese speakers live there, because of a raw deal the Pope gave Portugal a couple hundred years ago. (“If you and Spain can’t share the new world, we’ll just draw this line. You stay on your side, they stay on theirs.” 100 years ater “Hey, there’s a LOT more land on Spain’s side of the line!” “Too Bad!”) It’s the fifth largest country in the world, by both area and population, and it’s just generally a cool place. So I wanted to cook up some Brazilian dishes. And then I made the extra rule of “NON-SEAFOOD Brazilian dishes”, because, damn, those dudes love salt cod and shrimp.
Baby Steps to eat Brazilian Beef
One cool thing about Brazil and its neighbor Argentina, in terms of culinary oddities: they love their beef. The average American, the land of Big Macs and steaks, eats 53 pounds of beef a year, or just over a pound a week. The average Brazilian eats 60 pounds, and the average Argentinian eats 96. As such, it comes as no surprise that, as I researched simple Brazilian meals, I came across a roast beef sandwich with a fun history: the Bauru.
He’s about to start another history lesson. Eat now for the strength to endure.
See, the story is pretty well-known : a kid attending law school in Sao Paolo (a place I feel a strange connection with, having once, through the glory of anonymous internet chat, helped a young art student there with her English grammar.) in 1934 had the nickname of “Bauru”, a city in the region, because he came from there. (Like if a Law Student in Dallas was nicknamed “Houston” or “Austin”). One day he walks in, and orders a very specific sandwich: roast beef, tomato, pickle, melted mozzarella on a French roll, tear the crumb out of the bread. (The “Crumb” of a bread is, well, the bread. As in, “the part of the bread that isn’t the crust”)
Is “make a bread canoe” an easier way to visualize it?
Anywho, some people heard him order it, and went “Hell, I’ll try that.” Within a few weeks, “Bauru’s Sandwich” was a popular seller. Given that it sounds normal enough that I could probably order it in Philly and not raise an eyebrow, I decided to try it. I took the loaves, tore them up, and layered in the pickle, the beef, the tomato, and the cheese. Traditionally, the cheese is melted in a bain marie, aka “a double boiler”. That sounded like work, so I just briefly broiled the sandwiches. The result: a perfectly normal sandwich.
Seriously, it was a perfectly adequate sandwich that seemed almost amazingly normal. Of course, this meant my taste testers of site Alcohol Editor JJ Hernandez, and logo designer Joe Seguin acted like babies. JJ pulled his pickle off, and Joe took off the tomatoes. Godless heathens. In order to punish them, I reached for a much weirder dish: the pao de queijo.
Portuguese, like Catalan, is a fun language for me. Because both are very close to Spanish, so I can look at them and say “Yeah, okay, I kind of get this.” Pao de queijo, for instance, looks like “Pan de Queso”, or “Cheese Bread”. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what it is! (This is called a “cognate”, meaning the words come from the same root. Another good example is, well, “is”; “is” “es” and “ist” are all cognates. For even more fun, you can find “false cognates”, where a word LOOKS like something simple, but means something radically different. “Exito” in Spanish means “Success”, not “exit”. And “Embarazado” doesn’t mean “embarrassed “: it means “pregnant”. Which is a very embarrassing mistake to make.)
But yeah, pao de queijo. It’s basically a crunchy cheese biscuit, known for its sharp outer crust, and huge bubbles. These happen because it’s made with a weird ingredient: tapioca flour. Uncommon in the states, tapioca flour is most likely to be experienced by the average American in the form of bubble tea: it’s the main binder in the bubbles. So, I looked around for it, and, living in Washington instead of Brazil, found this:
One out of five is…pretty shit, actually.
I figured “Close enough”, and went with it. That was an incorrect thing to do.
Now, the recipe for this is pretty cool: you boil the wet ingredients, add the flour, and then mix in the cheese and flavoring components (meaning garlic) with eggs. And the wet ingredients are olive oil, milk, and water. So they look WEIRD as shit when they boil. Now, from my research, tapioca flour should make a sort of weird gelatin mix when it combines with this stuff, that you gotta let cool so it can firm up a bit.
This is not a gelatin. Nor has it sat to firm up. This is just dough. I’m real bad at this.
One tremendous failing out of the way, I moved on by adding the wrong cheese (I used Romano instead of Parmesan). This had the fun effect of making the apartment REEK of Romano cheese. In any case, I mixed it all up, slapped out the balls, and cooked 20 minutes. The result?
Pre-eaten biscuits? Well, at least we broke time as well as the recipe.
It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever made. It’s just an unremarkable cheese biscuit. It has the advantage of being gluten free, but the downside of tasting gluten free. In the end, it was unremarkable. Damn it Brazil, you’re going to make me do something really impressive to make you look cool, aren’t you? WELL FINE.
NEXT TIME: JON GETS TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER. HE GETS GUTSY. HE TALKS ABOUT ORGAN MEAT.
6 oz sliced roast beef
3 slices dill pickle
3 French Rolls
1 small tomato
1 ball fresh mozzarella
- Cut the French Rolls in half, if not pre-cut. Tear the crumb out of them. Start the broiler on your oven. Slice the tomato (Thinly) and mozzarella.
- Place 1 pickle in the bottom of each roll. Cover with 2 oz roast beef, then top with tomato and mozzarella. Place on a baking sheet.
- Broil 2-3 minutes, until mozzarella is mildly melted. Serve warm.
Pao de queijo
½ c olive oil or butter
1/3 c milk
1/3 c water
1 tsp salt
2 cups tapioca flour
2/3 c grated Parmesan Chees
2 minced garlic cloves
2 beaten eggs.
- Preheat oven to 375. Bring first four ingredients to a boil, then remove from heat. Add flour, stirring until smooth. Wait 10-15 minutes to cool. (if you used the wrong flour, like me, wait like, 5 minutes.)
- Add cheese, eggs, and garlic, and mix into the dough. Roll into ¼ c balls, and pop onto an greased baking sheet.
- Bake 20 minutes or so, until tops are golden brown. Serve warm.