Hi food friends,
This weekend I attended a cooking class at Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse. The class was on Brazilian BBQ and included lessons and recipes for making Picanha (their signature rump steak), lime-coconut prawns, marinated chicken drumsticks, warm onion salad, Pampa’s potato salad, and a gluten free cheese bun called Pao de Queijo.
Our instructors for the day were Archie and Anup. They were fantastic at explaining things and let us get hands on with the techniques.
We began the class by starting the fire! The trick they showed us to lighting the charcoal started with an empty wine bottle. They take sheets of newspaper and tie them around the bottle then place the paper wrapped bottle in centre of the BBQ and pull the bottle out. This creates a well for air to circulate in. At this point they pour the charcoal around the paper then light the paper from the inside. They exclusively use Dragons Breath charcoal in the restaurant which is a hickory/oak blend. Now we left it to get nice and hot and let the charcoal catch, this takes about 20 minutes.
During this time we made some of the other recipes (see below for the Pao de Queijo – Cheese Bun recipe) and prepped the meats for the fire! I feel like fire needs an ! after it is that wrong?
Though we learnt a marinade for the prawns and chicken and how to skewer those I’m going to concentrate on just the beef or you’d be reading all day here.
So their signature meat, Picanha, is a rump roast which is the equivalent to a top sirloin. You want to leave the fat on the meat because it gives it good flavor and keeps the beef moist but if there is any silver skin you want to cut that off because it would be tough and chewy once cooked. It is also very important to make sure you get the meat right on the skewer so that it doesn’t spin around and can cook evenly.
Archie getting the Picanha ready
Anup showing how to skewer the meat
Picanha on the skewer
The meat shouldn’t move when you shake the skewer
Once the meat is all skewered up they strictly use sea salt as the seasoning. Very generously season the meat with salt, after cooking you brush the excess off. Now if you don’t have the ability to do a roatisary you can do 1″ thick steaks in the same manner with the coals and the salt.
So once the meat is all skewered and seasoned you want to stir your coals and even the heat out a little. Then you want to put the meat as close to the hot coals as you can and start your rotation so that it gets a good sear. Once it’s got a good sear you can move it farther away from the heat source and continue to cook the meat through to whichever doneness you prefer. At Pampa what they do is remove the meat and carve your first serving off. But before you carve it off make sure you brush that excess salt off the meat. They just use a stiff bristled plastic brush like the kind you would use in the kitchen for scrubbing pots. After carving the first serving they re-salt the meat and return to the fire. And on the process goes throughout the night.
Meat over the fire
The caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail made with lime, sugar and cachaça (a Brazilian liquor). And before they served us lunch we all got to try our hand at making our own signature cocktail with our choice of fresh fruits.
Me shaking up my own version of a caipirinha
Then we all got to sit down for lunch and enjoy the fruits of our labours.
As part of the cooking class we also got a sample of the charcoal and salt (more than what I’ve show in the picture) that they use and an apron.
It was a fun morning and a great lunch. I would highly recommend the experience to try. It would make a great gift for the men in your life that like to cook… with fire!
Special shoutout to my classmates for the day: Jason, Charlene, Gonny, Jen, Brent, Amanda and Darcy! Now onto the recipe!!
Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Gluten free Cheese Buns)
– 3 eggs
– 275ml canola oil (or any other oil that has mild flavor such as vegetable oil)
– 1tsp salt
– 3C tapioca starch (rooster brand is available at T&T)
– 1/2C fine grated Grana Padano Cheese
– 1/2C fine grated Asiago Cheese
– 275ml whole milk (at least 2%)
– Preheat oven to 375F and grease a mini muffin pan.
– Using a blender, blend eggs, oil and milk together. Add the cheese and salt to the mixture and blend until smooth. Add tapioca starch in small batches and continue to blend.
– Scoop mixture into baking pan filling each cup full (they will puff up in the same manner that Yorkshire pudding will) then bake for 12-15 minutes or until they become a light golden brown colour.
Here are some pictures of us making the Pao de Queijo…
Thanks and until next time, enjoy your adventures!