In the kitchen of her Fairfield home in CT, Monica Justen pulls an authentic Barreado from the stove. A large pot of braised meat, the smell is divine and there are kitchen gadgets everywhere.
Barreado is the name of a typical dish from the state of Paraná, in the south of Brazil, where Monica Justen comes from. It consists of meat delicately cooked with bacon, onion and spices at low temperature for about 12 hours in a clay pot that is hermetically sealed with a starch paste of manioc flour. The name of the dish comes from the term barrear a panela, meaning to seal the pot with this manioc paste. The dish is served with manioc flour, banana, oranges, and pepper sauce.
I tasted Barreado on a trip to the south of Brazil a few years ago, more specifically in Morretes, a city that claims paternity of the dish.
It wasn’t until I met Monica through a group of Brazilians, that I had the opportunity to savor this fantastic dish again. I instantly recognized we share a love of cooking and asked her to teach me how to make this typical dish from her region.
Monica prepared two versions of the recipe, one based on beef shank, and another using store bought beef stew, which comes from the London broil. The difference was incredible. In any braise, bone-in meat is key to flavor. In Monica’s tests, the first one (bone-in meat) displayed great depth of character and its tenderness far surpassed the one prepared with beef stew.
Forget already cut, we concluded. All the luscious marrow of the shank is part of the appeal of cooking any type of meat on the bone. For an authentic Barreado, I love how Monica separated the meat from the bone, and the two met again in a later step of the recipe.
The encounter of braised meat with flavored stock was heaven.
“It wasn’t until coming to the US and having to take over most of the cooking job at home, that I decided to learn a little more about this dish”, she tells me while we both enjoy Barreado.
Monica was born and raised in Curitiba, and came to the US four years ago with her husband Marcal Justen, a prominent lawyer in Brazil.
The couple moved to the US in association with a Yale scholar program in New Haven, and chose Fairfield as their home.
It’s not surprising that Monica’s tastes buds, known for her delicious slow cooked stews, rendered in this superlative Barreado, a kind of practical adaptation of the Brazilian dish into the reality of our American kitchens. For Monica, cooking Brazilian cuisine in the US requires some adaptability. “Long ago, I decided to get Le Creuset pots that are known here as Dutch oven pans. They are made of cast iron, which allows for perfect braising, slow cooking, risottos and the like. And the best: easy clean-up”, says Monica.
In June, Monica and her family will go back to living in Brazil. Now 45, Monica enjoyed the american lifestyle to the fullest, entertaining, going to shows, theaters and most importantly, making friends along the way. Monica has quickly become a source of information for our Brazilian group of friends. A lawyer as well, she is not afraid of the transition and is ready to embrace the next chapter of her life in Brazil.
Just as she deploys master creativity to fashion her kitchen recipes, she applies the same courage to cook Barreado, as she does to move back to Brazil. If bone is key to flavor, adaptation is key to life.
My kind of girl. We’ll miss you Monica!
Adapted by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz for this blog
6 bone in beef shank
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt ad freshly ground pepper
4 oz bacon, diced (about 4 to 5 strips)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
Freshly ground numeg
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups manioc flour
1 orange cut in segments
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
1. Heat the oven to 325˚F and place a rack on the lower third set.
2. Separate the meat from the bones. Clean the excess fat from the meat, but don’t worry too much about the thin membranes, they will melt in the cooking. Heat a large stockpot and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the bones and cook them, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Pour 6 cups of cold water, bring to boil, then adjust the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid has thickened and flavored, about 40 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cut the meat into 1–inch cubes and season with salt and pepper.
4. In a large Dutch oven pan add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon until it just starts to crisp, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat, add the garlic and cook until it just starts to golden, about 1 minute. Add the onion, bay leaves, nutmeg and cumin, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture gets soft and tender, about 6 minutes. Add the meat and cook, stirring occasionally. During this step, the meat will release its juices moistening the mixture and turning into a delicious kind of refogado (sofrito). Add the tomato paste and season lightly with salt and pepper.
5. Strain the broth; you should have about 5 cups. Pour over the meat, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, and transfer to the oven. Braise until the meat is super tender, about 2½ hours, checking often to make sure simmering is at a gentle boil and liquid level is right. You can always add another ½ cup water if necessary. (In a traditional barreado, the manioc paste helps prevent some evaporation. Here, you need to check more often.)
6. Remove from the oven and let it rest at room temperature, covered for 30 minutes. Using a large spoon, smash the meat to shred everything into thin threads. At this point, the dish looks more like a soup than a stew.
7. To serve, place about 3 tablespoons of manioc flour on the bottom of a plate in a circular motion. First, add some of the liquid from the barreado to form a paste, then add the meat. Garnish with banana, oranges, and chopped parsley.