My first trip to Sao Paolo felt like jumping feet-first into a chef’s culinary playground. From bustling markets filled with hundreds of species of the freshest fruits and vegetables brought straight from the amazon, to breezy cafes on every street corner serving up exotic favorites like pastel de bacalao and chicken coxinha. Every day was an adventure for the palate and thrilling to the senses.
My guide, and chef partner-in-crime at the time, introduced me to two of Brazil’s most famed foods. The exploration began with Feijoada, the national dish. A hearty dish of stewed turtle beans, foray of salted meats, rice and farofa. It’s only eaten on days of rest because of the sleepy aftermath from such a satiating meal. And that’s why I adore it; it’s all about those post eats zzzzz’s. Then there’s Churrasco, both a ubiquitous meal across South America and a memorable culinary spectacle. Gauchos outfitted with swords of never-ending salty grilled meats in a variety of 40 different cuts from every animal imaginable, dancing from table-to-table slicing layers of savory heaven for their guests. Before each meal, I was presented with a basket of warm cheesy puffs fresh out of the oven. With each bite I melted like the soft gooey centers in those toasty rolls. I came near to eating the entire basket and ruining my dinner, as I frequently do with my chips and salsa at any Tex-Mex restaurant, so I was determined to learn how to make them when I got home. That way I could gorge ’til my hearts content in the elastic comfort of my own jammies. No judging.
After trial and error, I’ve recreated the beloved recipe from that same churrasco in Sampa for you to enjoy at home.
Traditionally, Pao De Queijo is made with both sweet tapioca flour, sour tapioca flour, and minas cheese. If you happen to have a Brazilian or Latin grocery market in town that supplies these ingredients, you’re in luck. If not, any tapioca starch and a blend of cheeses like parmesan, mozzarella, queso fresco, and cheddar will substitute perfectly without compromise on flavor. Try a variety of different fats, like rendered bacon, butter, or avocado oil, to add additional flavor if you feel adventurous. Scoop the dough in different sizes and freeze them to enjoy throughout the month. They make great slider buns or try wrapping the dough around some cubed cheese or sausage for filled appetizers at your next gathering. Freeze any un-baked dough balls immediately, or use the mix within the first day to avoid starch retrogradation, which will prevent the balls from puffing up.