Brazilian chicken University of Mary Washington
BRAZILIAN-STYLE CHICKEN AND RICE: At the University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Va., chicken and rice—a universal dish of the world—gets Brazilian flavor with fresh orange and lime juice and zest, garlic, mint, cilantro, jalapenos, cumin and chili powder.

Menu Mix: Inspiration from Brazil

American chefs can find some great ideas from Brazil, where meat takes center stage and desserts are rarely overlooked.

A group of about 80 visiting students from Brazil in the last two years has spurred the culinary crew at Saint Francis University (SFU) to learn more about Brazilian food.

“As the students got more comfortable, they started sharing recipes from home with us,” says Leo Cavanaugh, senior general manager of dining for Parkhurst at SFU. “My goal is to have them cook with me so they can show me how.”

Once in the kitchen, Cavanaugh got the conversation going by asking about well-known dishes from the country. The students mentioned picanha, which refers to a cut of beef (we commonly call it sirloin cap in the U.S.), is basically Brazilian barbecue, rotisserie style. The fatty cut of meat is crusted with coarse salt, cooked over a grill on sword-like skewers and carved to order in traditional Brazilian steak houses.

So Cavanaugh and Terry McMullen, chef with Parkhurst at SFU, got to work on the picanha, and it passed muster with the students, who were super excited about it. Picanha is a tougher cut of meat, so marinating it for two or even three days in salt is important. 

“The secret is to really cover it with salt,” Cavanaugh says. 

Next, they worked on side dishes, including black beans and rice, which get flavors from sautéed garlic and onions. McMullen has even gone on to create chicken and pork version. This has proven to be popular with the broader student population, as well.

Another iconic Brazilian dish, feijoada, has made it onto the menu rotation at SFU, served at the Bravo action station. It’s a jambalaya-like stew with beans, beef, pork, ham and flavors of cumin, coriander and a hint of cayenne.

Brazilians take their desserts seriously, always saving room after even the meatiest meal. At SFU, they created a carrot cake and also chocolate truffles known as brigadeiro, which are coated with a dust of peanuts, cocoa powder or coconuts (beijinho de coco).

“The thing with Brazilian food is that American students really like it,” Cavanaugh says. “Now they remember it and request it.”

School chef brings taste of home

Chef Fabiana Meireles grew up in Brasilia, Brazil, and learned to cook when she was a teenager. Her family would gather on Saturday afternoons for casual gatherings with music, dancing, watching football, relaxing, sipping on capirinhas and of course, eating feijoada.

She brought those good memories and flavors to the kitchen of Concord Academy in Concord, Mass., where she’s now a Sodexo chef.

Meireles uses the old techniques and ingredients—complete with pig ears, tail and feet—for a feijoada that’s bringing the party to the lunchroom. She describes the dish as “moderately salty but not spicy, dominated by flavors of black beans and meat.”

It’s customary to serve feijoada with rice and oranges, the latter said to help with digestion. Get the recipe here.

Budget-friendly Brazil

At Manna, Centura Health’s Castle Rock Adventist hospital’s full-service restaurant, Brazilian food is part of some overall cost-cutting measures. Lisa Poggas, MS, RD, director of nutrition and environmental services at Centura Health, and Dan Skay, nutrition manager/executive chef at Castle Rock, face the familiar challenge of creating great dishes while cutting costs.

Feijoada has turned to be a dish that’s great at doing just that by making use of a more economical cut of beef that becomes tender after simmering in a stew. The beef tips are served over masa cakes with cotija cheese for a perfectly satisfying meal.

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