By: Jason Perlow
Let’s play some word association, OK? Ready?
Most people think of traumatic procedures to remove unwanted hair from tender parts of their body.
After experiencing one of those, some may even think of the caipirinha, a powerful lime juice-based cocktail similar to the Cuban daiquiri, but made with cachaca, the national sugarcane-based firewater.
Or perhaps Carnaval do Brasil, their raucous festival equivalent to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras that kicks off the season of Lent, filled with extravagant floats, latin music, brightly costumed dancers, and revelers in the streets of warm and tropical Rio de Janeiro and other major cities like Brasilia and Sao Paolo.
What do I think of? Well, I think of going to a churrascaria. That would be the meat-filled marathon at Texas de Brazil, Fogo de Chao, or any of my favorite local restaurants serving the all-you-can eat rodizio extravaganzas where for around $50 a person, you can watch a parade of meat on metal rods, filled with sausage, chops, ribs, legs, and slices of just about every juicy seasoned chunks of mammal and fowl you can think of, until you beg your server to give you the check before you explode.
Brazilians, due to the tropical and coastal nature of their country have become masters of the grill. And while their restaurants are certainly known for grilled meats, they also enjoy it at home.
Western Broward County residents have normally had to seek out Brazilian-style butchers in cities like Pompano Beach if they wanted to grill their favorite churrasco cuts.
But no longer — Seabra Foods, one of the largest distributors of Brazilian and Portuguese foods in the United States, has opened in Parkland, in the shopping center on route 441 and the corner of Loxahatchee Road.
A & J Seabra Supermarkets is a company that I am quite familiar with, as for many years, prior to moving to South Florida, I used to frequent their flagship supermarkets in the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey — one of the largest Brazilian and Portuguese communities in the United States. And I am absolutely ecstatic I now have one so close to home.
The Parkland store, while smaller than other locations you may have visited — such as their Pompano Beach location — is more curated, and has stocked many products you will not be able to find in other shopping venues, because Seabra has exclusive import and distribution rights with many popular Brazilian and Portuguese brands.
Inside you’ll find excellent values in Portuguese wine, such as many varieties of porto and tinto, and lager-style beer brands from Portugal and Brazil, such as Sagres and Brahma. And if you don’t drink alcohol, they have popular soft drinks such as Guarana Antarctica, which is even more popular than Coca-Cola in Brazil, and is naturally potent in caffeine from the guarana berry that grows in the rainforest.
You’ll also find rows of unusual snacks and every ingredient possible that you need to prepare authentic Brazilian and Portuguese meals, short of fresh seafood — which you’ll need to go to the Pompano store for. They also have an in-store cafe with hot prepared food, serving breakfast and lunch, and an incredible bakery that has fresh bread and utterly sinful-looking pastries, cakes and cookies.
But the crown jewel of the store? The butcher. Oh, the butcher.
Here, all manner of cuts of meat that are needed for a perfect do-it-yourself churrasco meal are on display. There are all kinds of fresh pork and beef sausages, chops, and kebabs, as well as freshly prepared rolls of beef and pork that you can buy as whole roasts or sliced up in manageable chunks, all tied up with bacon, sausage and root vegetables at the center — perfect for a dinner party or a family gathering, which you can roast in an oven or cook at low temperature on your smoker.
The absolute best cut of meat to grill according to Brazilians? That would be the picanha.
While not well-known outside Brazil, and cut from the rear hindquarters of a steer or a heifer, picanha is one of the tastiest portions of beef you’ll ever have. In the United States, it is referred to as sirloin cap, rump cover, or Brazilian Tri-Tip. American Butchers generally divide it into other cuts like the rump, the round, and the loin.
As there is one per animal, it is a large triangular piece of meat, typically between 2 or 3 pounds, and it has a thick fat cap on top. And it is characterized by having a very beefy, sirloin-like flavor with a tender, but not too soft texture, with some connective tissue, like a skirt steak, and is relatively lean, excepting the fat cap which can be easily removed at the table.
At Brazilian steakhouses, it is seasoned only with coarse salt, and then slid whole onto long spits which are slowly roasted above a charcoal fire. As it cooks and renders out, the cap of fat on the top of the picanha drips over the meat, keeping it moist and juicy.
At Seabra Foods, if you want to experience this truly juicy piece of meat, you have to buy the entire picanha, which costs between $18 and $24 depending on the size you get. But the butcher there will be happy to slice it into steaks so you can easily cook it on your grill. Brazilians tend to like it cut two finger widths thick.
A large picanha will easily feed four or five very hungry adults, especially with side dishes.
When you get your sliced picanha steaks home, simply season them with coarse sea salt or kosher salt on both sides. Grill for about 2 minutes per side on high heat, if you want it medium rare — the fat is going to flare up a bit if you ask the butcher to leave it attached (which is traditional) so you’ll want to watch things carefully.
A charcoal grill is ideal if you want that authentic flavor. If you are using a gas grill, you might enjoy using some fruit wood chips wrapped in a packet of thick aluminum foil, with some holes punched in to allow smoke ventilation. Place the packet directly on top of the grill grates, and let it get hot during the grill’s heating up cycle, to around 600 degrees. Then grill normally — the smoke flavor adds that extra something.
So what do you eat for sides? In addition to rice and beans, as well as sweet plantains, green salad, and any number of regular American-style backyard BBQ sides like coleslaw, potato salad and macaroni salad, Brazilians enjoy Couve a Mineira which is shredded collard greens that is simply sautéed in olive oil with chopped garlic, and seasoned with salt and paprika, and a bit of lime juice squeezed on it just before plating.
To make it even simpler, Seabra Foods has the collards already shredded and ready for sautéing, in pre-portioned packages in their produce section.
What to have for dessert? As mentioned earlier, at their bakery, they have fantastic cakes, such as bolo (rolled cakes of different flavors, including guava and chocolate) and brigadeiro, a large, rich bonbon made of condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter, and chocolate sprinkles.
However, if you want something a bit lighter, try some grilled pineapple with cinnamon sugar on top, served by its lonesome or with ice cream. It’s the perfect ending to a churrasco meal.
7671 N State Rd 7
Parkland, FL 33067
7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., 7 days a week
Jason Perlow is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City and New Jersey metro areas reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which he started in 2006 and ran for ten years. He is also the founder of eGullet, a popular food discussion site and not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2001, which was featured on Tony Bourdain's "No Reservations" cable television program.
As a technologist by profession, he writes the Tech Broiler blog for CBS's ZDNet web site. He has been a Coral Springs resident since moving to South Florida in 2012.