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Christmas Dinner in Brazil

A Traditional Christmas meal in Brazil

Around the world, the Christmas holidays are a time to celebrate family, friends, and good food. Brazil is no exception. 

A family around the table for Christmas

At Christmas, Brazilians enjoy a vast array of traditional foods that reflect their unique blend of cultures and religion. In the US, Christmas Dinner is often served at midday on December 25th. In Brazil, the main meal is eaten late at night on Christmas Eve, and the festivities can last until the early morning. 

The table is laid out in much the same fashion as in America and Europe, with red and green as prominent colors, a Christmas tree or nativity scene in the background, and centerpieces decorated with holly berries. 

What Do Brazilians Eat for Christmas Dinner?

Main Entree

The central dish of Brazilian Christmas Dinner is typically a “chester,” a special variety of chicken that has been bred to have a high percentage of breast and thigh meat. Unlike the turkeys roasted in the US, chesters are sold in boneless, oval-shaped packages. They are roasted and carved like boneless honey ham. 

There is some mystery surrounding the origin of the chester, with theories ranging from it being a hybrid mutant chicken to it migrating every year to Brazil from the North Pole. Regardless of its origins, it is a staple of Brazilian Christmas, where it is declared universally delicious.

Christmas dinner usually includes a chester chicken in brazil.

A boneless chester chicken ready to be carved over a bed of fresh fruit.

In other regions, especially the coast, bacalhau is the star dish. This salted cod is soaked overnight then rolled into balls (“bolinhos”) for frying. The result is a flavorful, crunchy, and comforting fish croquette. 

Bolinhos de bacalhau, fried croquettes eaten for Brazilian Christmas.

Side Dishes

In the US, the foods we select have a great deal to do with the weather outside. Our Christmas is typically chilly, with hot and comforting foods eaten to mitigate the cold. In Brazil, however, the winter months are hot. December 25 is the middle of Summer for countries in the Southern Hemisphere, and the foods present at holiday meals reflect this.

The chester or bacalhau are often accompanied with fresh salads, dried fruit, and cold potato salads mixed with apples and raisins. Bowls of rice seasoned with garlic are a staple, as are ham and cheese plates, seasoned kale, and farofa-a mix of fried cassava flour and crispy bacon bits. 

Dessert

Americans typically eat pie for dessert at Christmas-pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie are the most common. In Brazil, the two most common desserts are panettone and rabanadas. Panettone is a nod to Brazil’s Italian heritage. It is sweet bread in a large muffin-shape with dried fruits or chocolate. These can be purchased pre-made in Brazilian supermarkets starting in November.

Rabanadas is the Brazilian version of pain perdu, or French Toast. Stale pieces of bread are soaked in milk and egg, seasoned with warming spices, and fried. 

Rabanadas, Brazilian French toast eaten for dessert on Christmas Eve.

German strudel may also be found, along with marzipan, bowls of refreshing, seasonal fruit. Mangoes, guava, pineapple, and cherries are favorites.

Beverages

Again, Christmastime is summertime for Brazilians. They tend to substitute our preferred drinks of mulled wine, spiked hot chocolate, and eggnog for more refreshing beverages. Cold beer and whiskey on ice are often served as the spirits of choice. Interestingly, caipirinhas are not often featured at Christmas dinner. They are reserved for more casual days at the beach. 

Experience Brazilian Culture and Cuisine

While Christmas is undoubtably more a celebration done at home, at Texas de Brazil, we cherish the opportunity to share more and more about the traditions of Brazil. Outside of Brazil, you can experience the unique flavors and hospitality of Brazil at one of Texas de Brazil’s 50+ locations. Go online to find the restaurant nearest you, or give the gift of churrasco with one of our hand-curated grill package options

 

Brazilian Mulled Wine Recipe (Quentão de Vinho)

Quentão de Vinho – A Brazilian Mulled Wine Recipe

In Brazil, mulled wine is known as Quentão, which translates to “big heat.” It is traditionally drunk during the Festas Juninas, Catholic celebrations of rural life that take place throughout the month of June. 

Festas de Juninas in Brazil

The Festas are a Christian adaptation of European Midsommer. Participants give thanks to Saint John for the summer rains and dress as stereotypical caipiras, or “country bumpkins.” Boys don large straw hats and painted freckles and girls wear pigtails and checkered dresses. 

There are many traditional games and dances, such as the quadrilha, which is similar to American square dance. The music of the forró players is central. It is an unmistakable sound, with an accordion at the center and the rhythm kept by a triangle and a bass drum called a zabumba. The lively beat is juxtaposed with vocals that express longing and nostalgia. 

Corn dishes are abundant at the Festas: sweet popcorn, corn coconut pudding (munguza doce), and fúba cakes made from cornmeal. And the traditional drink is the quentão, a warm mulled wine sweetened with cane sugar and flavored with earthy spices. 

In America, we tend to drink our spiced wine when the weather turns cold. The quentão is a perfect addition to the warming drinks we look forward to as Winter approaches. It is lighter than many of the European versions, which are often spiked with brandy or cognac. This makes it an ideal pairing with a savory end course, like a cheese board with aged parmesan and smoky prosciutto. 

The quentão is very simple to make. A few quality ingredients are all that is needed to make this spiced beverage. If you wish, you can boil the wine so that it is virtually alcohol-free. Otherwise, be sure to keep the heat on a simmer so you retain the alcohol content. 

Brazilian Mulled Wine Recipe (Quentão de Vinho)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 liters of red wine* (two 750 ml bottles)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 1 sliced orange
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2-3 peels of fresh ginger (or 2 tsp candied ginger)
  • Garnish: cinnamon sticks, orange peel, orange slices, or star anise

*Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon work well, try out DAOU vineyards for our selection of wines you can use at home.

Directions:

  1. Add your water and sugar to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. 
  2. When all of the sugar is dissolved, add your fruit and spices. Cover the pot and simmer on low for 30 minutes. 
  3. Add your wine and simmer while covered for an additional 10 minutes, until it is hot. 
  4. Strain the wine and serve in mugs with cinnamon sticks, star anise, or orange peel for garnish. 

 

*You can easily make this wine in a slow cooker. Add all your ingredients at once and cook on low until hot. Reduce heat to warm and serve as needed. 

Visit Texas de Brazil for More Traditional Recipes

Texas de Brazil has more than 50 locations across the United States and Overseas. Visit one of our churrascarias to experience our delicious and authentic Brazilian food and drink, like our famous picanha and a huge selection of side dishes.

 

Cooking Tomahawk Ribeye Steak At Home

The tomahawk ribeye is an impressive cut of meat. It is instantly recognizable by the extended, handle-like bone, which gives the cut its name. Cooking tomahawk steaks on a charcoal grill at home is relatively easy and makes for a delicious and eye-catching meal.

What Are Tomahawk Steaks?

The tomahawk is technically the same cut of beef as a ribeye. Both come from the rib area of the cow, but a tomahawk is specially trimmed to leave about 5 inches of rib bone intact. This method of trimming, called “Frenching,” is the same technique used to create a rack of lamb. 

Tomahawks are typically taken from the loin of the cow, which is composed of two muscles that run along the spine. It is the same cut used for t-bone steaks and porterhouse steaks. 

Where Does the Name Come From?

In the United States, the tomahawk steak can be traced back to the Texas Cattle Drives of the 1860s. Cowboys prepared steaks in this manner and found they resembled a Native American hatchet, or “tomahawk.”

Since the tomahawk is a distinctly American item, the steak is not called this in other parts of the world. In Australia and New Zealand, for example, the bone-in steak is simply called a “ribeye.” When the bone is removed, it is known as a Scotch fillet or Whiskey fillet. In Great Britain and France, it is most often referred to as a “côte de boeuf.” 

Is Tomahawk Steak Expensive? 

Yes, tomahawk ribeyes are one of the more expensive cuts of steak. A high quality, 40 oz tomahawk steak can cost about $100-considerably more than a boneless ribeye. 

Many chefs will tell you that the addition of the rib bone adds richness and complexity to the end flavor; and others will say the only difference it makes is in the final appearance. 

So, are tomahawk steaks really worth it?

The flavor and texture of the meat is certainly worthy of a higher price tag, but the true value of the tomahawk seems to lie in its “wow-factor” appearance. The tomahawk has become such a status symbol, in fact, that some individuals are shelling out as much as $2000 for a gold-leafed version offered by Chef Salt Bae in Britain. 

While the gold-leafed tomahawk might be taking things a little too far, we feel the long bone ribeye on its own is worthy of a special dinner. In the end, the extra cost of the tomahawk depends on your end goal: if you want taste AND pizzazz, a tomahawk checks all the boxes. 

How Do You Cook a Tomahawk Steak?

Tomahawk steaks are thick and generally weigh between 35 and 45 ounces. Because of their size, you may be tempted to cook your steak in the oven. While this is certainly an option, tomahawks are truly at their best when grilled on a charcoal grill.

Grilling tomahawks is actually quite easy. Salt and monitoring are all that is required.

If you do not have a charcoal grill, you can obtain a similar result by searing your steak in a cast iron pan on high heat. 

Tomahawk Grilling Steps

Allow your steaks to come to room temperature. Preheat your grill to high heat. Make sure it is clean and lightly oiled.

Meanwhile, season your tomahawk on all sides with a good amount of salt. Place the steak over direct heat and sear for a few minutes on each side. Move to indirect heat and cover. Flip the steak every few minutes and continue cooking until you reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees fahrenheit (medium rare).

Wrap your steak in aluminum foil and let it rest for fifteen minutes. Cut against the grain to serve.

What Should I Eat With My Tomahawk Steaks?

You will be surprised how buttery and flavorful this cut of meat is, seasoned only with a little salt. Complement its richness with a smoky Cabernet, roasted brussels sprouts, and garlic mashed potatoes

Where Can I Buy Tomahawk Steak?

Long bone ribeyes can be found in the butcher section of many grocery chains, or in specialty shops. For the highest quality tomahawk steaks, you can visit Texas de Brazil’s online butcher shop. We offer USDA Choice tomahawks and picanha, Australian rack of lamb, and other specialty cuts of meat. Order a curated box or a la carte today.

Churrasco Recipe: Steakhouse Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Texas de Brazil inspired Steakhouse Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Garlic mashed potatoes are a staple of the Brazilian steakhouse, and for good reason. They are pure comfort food, with a creamy texture and buttery, tangy flavor. This garlic mashed potato recipe uses buttermilk, parmesan cheese, and loads of garlic. We promise, this will be your go-to recipe for mashed potatoes, whatever the occasion. 

What Kind of Potatoes Should I Use?

You can use whatever potatoes you like: Yukon gold, russet, or red potatoes all do nicely. For this mashed potato recipe, we are using russet potatoes that have been peeled and boiled in salt water. 

We find russets work best if you’re going for a creamier texture. If you’d rather have a chunkier texture or leave the skins on your potatoes, you can try red or Yukons. The same steps in the recipe still apply. 

Can I Make a Dairy-Free Version?

Yes, you can substitute the parmesan cheese, butter, cream, and buttermilk in this recipe with equal amounts of dairy-free alternatives. Cashew-based cream cheese and soy-milk will work nicely and add a hint of nuttiness to mimic the parmesan. Miyoko’s also has an excellent dairy-free butter that melts just like the real thing. 

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have Buttermilk?

Buttermilk is easy to make: simply mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup of your milk or cream. The percentage of milk fat does not matter. You can also do this with your non-dairy milk (see above).

If you do not have the above ingredients or simply prefer to leave out the buttermilk, you can substitute plain milk, half and half, or heavy cream in your steakhouse mashed potatoes. For added tang, use plain greek yogurt or sour cream thinned with water or milk.

Steakhouse Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20-30 minutes Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs russet potatoes 
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream or half and half
  • ¾ cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • Scallions for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Equipment:
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Potato Masher
  • Large stock pot
  • Small saucepan
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife

Directions:

  1. Peel your russet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch pieces. 
  2. Put the chopped potatoes into your stock pot and cover with enough water just so they are completely submerged. 
  3. Add the 2 tablespoons of sea salt to the potatoes and water and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they fall apart when speared with a fork (20-30 minutes).
  4. While your potatoes are cooking, heat a small saucepan over low heat. Melt one tablespoon of butter in the saucepan.
  5. Smash the garlic cloves and give them a rough chop. Put the rough-chopped garlic into the melted butter in the saucepan and simmer just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add the cream or half and half to the saucepan and cook on medium until you see a light simmer, then remove from heat.
  7. Drain your potatoes and put them in a large, heat-safe bowl. Pre-mash them with your masher until you see an even texture. 
  8. Add in your buttermilk* and parmesan cheese and incorporate with the masher.
  9. Finally, add in the cream and garlic mixture and mash again. Mix until you reach a texture that is creamy but not overly smooth.
  10. Season with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  11. Let the potatoes cool for 5 minutes or so. They will thicken up during this time. 

*Why don’t we heat the buttermilk with the cream? Because buttermilk can curdle if it reaches a certain temperature. It’s best to add it separately.

That’s it! Serve your potatoes warm with diced scallions and a pat of butter on top. These are so creamy and flavorful you won’t even think about adding gravy. For a delicious meal, pair your homemade garlic mashed potatoes with seared picanha or flank steak with chimichurri sauce. 

Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Other Sides at Texas de Brazil

Visit one of 50+ locations to try our house-made garlic mashed potatoes and other delicious sides, like mushrooms in a red-wine marinade, lobster bisque, traditional feijoada black beans, and potatoes au gratin. 

Rio de Janeiro’s Most Famous Monument

Christ the Redeemer is World Renown

Rio de Janeiro has a large Catholic population dating back to the 16th century Portuguese colonists who brought the religion from Europe.  Certainly, Christ the Redeemer is a beloved icon among locals. Of the 13.5 million residents, more than 51% identify as practicing Catholics. 

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the city’s most famous artwork is rooted in the Catholic faith. Known to Brazilians as “Cristo Redento,” the statue stands large and looming on a mountaintop, arms reaching out as if he were drawing the entire city into an embrace. 

The imposing statue can be seen anywhere in the city. This is intentional, since its original purpose was to instill a sense of piety among straying Catholics. Even the non-religious can’t help but feel the gaze of the enormous Redeemer as they go about their business. 

How Big Is the Christ the Redeemer Statue?

Built in the Art Deco style, the Redeemer is a masterpiece of sculpture and design. The statue weighs 635 metric tons and is 98 feet tall. The arms measure 92 feet in length, and the whole statue sits on top of a 26 foot pedestal. 

Where Is the Statue Located?

Christ the Redeemer sits on the summit of Corcovado Mountain, a 2300 ft peak located in Tijuca Forest National Park. The idea of placing a statue on this mountain was first proposed by a local priest, Pedro Maria Boss. He suggested building a monument there to honor Princess Isabel, the regent of Brazil. 

Father Pedro’s project was never approved and, in 1889, Brazil became a republic. The project was dismissed entirely to adhere to the separation of church and state. 

Why Was the Statue Built?

In 1921, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rio again proposed that a monument be built on top of Mount Corcovado. Catholic citizens petitioned then-president Epitacio Pessoa to allow for the construction of a statue of Christ. The petition was granted and the first stone was symbolically laid on April 4, 1922. 

While the exact reason for the statue is unknown, the predominant theory is that the Church felt its subjects were straying from their faith. A monumental figure of Christ that could be seen from anywhere in the city would be a not-too-subtle reminder of their duties to God.

Who Built It and When?

Christ the Redeemer’s design was initially conceived by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, whose sketches showed Christ holding a cross in one hand and the world in the other. This design was refined by Carlos Oswald, another Brazilian artist who is credited with the idea of having Christ’s arms outstretched. 

French sculptor Paul Landowski collaborated with da Silva Costa and Oswald on the statue and commissioned Gheorge Leonida of Romania to work on the details of the face and head. 

The massive size of the statue required that it be built on site. All materials and workers were transported via a small cog train that led to the summit. This was a complicated and expensive undertaking. The final cost of building the statue was around $250,000, which is the equivalent of over $3 million today. It was funded almost entirely through private donations to the Catholic Church.

The statue was completed on October 12, 1931. It has undergone periodic cleanings and renovations, the most recent of which was in 2010 after a lightning storm caused significant damage. 

What is Cristo Redentor Made Of?

The sculpture is built with reinforced concrete and decorated in a mosaic of soapstone, a metamorphic rock mined locally in Brazil. It is durable and easy to carve due to its high talc content. It is also heat tolerant, which is why it is sometimes used to line fireplaces. More often, it is used for things like countertops and flooring.

Who Can Visit the Statue?

Anyone is welcome to visit the monument. Tourists can get a better view using the escalators and panoramic elevators that have been added to spare visitors the 200-step climb to the top. 

Today, there is also a chapel consecrated in 2006 to Our Lady of Apparition-the patron saint of Rio. The chapel is located at the base of the Redeemer statue and is a popular venue for weddings and baptisms. 

More than a Sculpture

Close up of Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer has become a symbol not just of Rio de Janeiro but of the entire country of Brazil. The statue is a reminder of the omnipresence of the Church for millions of citizens, and a testament to Brazilian engineering and design. It remains the largest Art Deco sculpture in the world and draws thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year. 

Experience Brazilian Culture at Texas de Brazil

Outside of Brazil, one of the best ways to sample Brazilian culture is to visit one of our restaurants. We serve authentic Brazilian churrasco in the traditional gaucho way. Visit one of our 50+ locations for a dining experience unlike any other. 

You can also subscribe to our blog for more interesting articles on Brazilian culture, history, and cuisine. 

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