In these extravagant Brazilian restaurants that serve churasco, brightly-outfitted gauchos armed with long skewers of meat give guests all the perfectly-roasted meats they can eat. Paired with a good bottle of wine and an exceptional salad bar, churasco becomes a mouthwateringly memorable meal that, with a little preparation, can be made at home. And, best yet, it is perfect for a dinner party (bright outfits and long skewers are optional!).
Turning your home into a psuedo-churascarria for a dinner party is easier than you think. Simply view it as a three-phase game plan comprised of wine, salad and meat. And though any good entertaining game plan should involve a dessert, few people are still hungry after savoring this Brazilian-style meat.
Phase one of the churasco game plan is getting the right wine for the evening – one to two bottles each of red and white will more than suffice. The good news is you outsource this entirely: Go to the wine shop, tell the wine expert you are serving red meat and come home with the recommended bottles. Look for wines under $15 since everyone will remember the meat, not the wine.
The typical salad selections should include lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, Caesar dressing, sweet mustard-based potato salad, red apples, asparagus, proscuitto, aioli (or red pepper dressing), and lemon juice.
You are going to accomplish your salad offerings by outsourcing some of the work and doing some of the work yourself. The "salad bar" will consist of three items: Caesar salad, apple-potato salad, and blanched asparagus.
Salads: If you have a reputable deli that makes outstanding Caesar salads, simply purchase your salad right before the party or you can just as easily toss your own. For the apple-potato salad, buy a deli potato salad and add chopped apples about two hours before serving. Keep it refrigerated.
Asparagus: To blanch the asparagus, bring some salted water to a boil. Prepare the asparagus by cutting off the last inch of the stalk and boil stalks for 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer asparagus to an ice bath to halt cooking. Remove from the water, sprinkle with a little lemon juice and put the asparagus in the refrigerator. When the guests arrive, serve the asparagus with proscuitto and the aioli.
To adequately serve your guests the star entrée, buy one-quarter pound each of flank steak and top sirloin per person, one ribeye for every two people, and one filet per person. These cuts of meat are full of flavor and can be cooked in about the same amount of time (be sure to buy cuts with the same thickness).
Perfectly cooked, juicy, succulent meat is the most important component of your meal, and can easily be achieved with a combination of stovetop and oven cooking.
1. Season your meat. Sprinkle both sides of the meat with salt and pepper and let it rest at room temperature for 35 minutes. While the meat is resting, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cook the filets and ribeyes. Put some flavor-neutral oil (like canola or grapeseed) into two large oven-proof skillets over high heat. Let the skillets and the oil get very hot and place one filet in one skillet and one ribeye in the other. Cook the meat 3 to 4 minutes per side. Put both skillets in the oven (or put the meat on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven) and cook until desired doneness (do not let meat cook in the oven more than 8 minutes).
3. Cook the steak and sirloin. Put two more large skillets on the stove over high heat and add flavor-neutral oil and let them get very hot. Add the flank steak to one skillet and the sirloin to the other. Cook both meats 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until your desired doneness. Let all meat rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Once the meat is ready, all you need to do is uncork the wine and serve the salads. And, for the true churascarria experience, you can skewer the meat and walk each piece around, carving slices for your guests. If you want to serve your churasco even more authentically, you'll have to find those crazy golden gaucho pants. But you are on your own for that.
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