If you are planning to make this traditional dish from Brazil’s southern state of Paraná,  you’re going to need two specific things that might not be already hanging around in your pantry. First, the dish must be cooked in a large clay pot with a lid – the type of pot that’s often referred to as a bean pot. Bostonians use them for cooking baked beans, as do Quebecers, so if you’re in either of those categories you just might have one in the house. If not, you’ll have to beg, borrow or steal one, as the dish really can’t be made in any other pot or pan.

Second, you’ll need to find manioc flour to make the thick dough that seals the pot. Not being able to source manioc flour doesn’t mean that you can’t make barreado however, just that it won’t be completely authentic. You can make the same sort of dough with wheat flour and water. Manioc flour is also used to thicken the broth in a traditional barreado, but again you can substitute flour, although the result won’t taste exactly the same.

One of the nice things about making barreado is that all the cooking can be done long before the dish is served. In fact, the dish tastes better this way. So when you want to do your cooking the day before you serve a meal, barreado is an excellent option.

RECIPE – Barreado
Serves 4

6 lbs beef shank, cut into long strips in the direction of the grain
salt to taste
1 lb lean smoked slab bacon, cut into julienne strips
5 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 to 3 cups manioc flour, mixed with a little water to make a thick dough

For the pirão
cooking liquid from the barreado
1 cup manioc flour

sliced ripe banana to garnish
Season the beef with salt to taste (remember the dish will contain bacon, so season lightly). Reserve.

In a large saucepan, fry the bacon strips until they have rendered their fat and are beginning to brown. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the beef, the bay leaf, the oregano and cumin and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the meat has browned.

Put everything from the saucepan into a large clay bean pot, then add sufficient water to cover. Reserve.

Make a thick dough with the manioc flour and water, and roll it with your hands into a long thick “rope.” Cover the bean pot, then firmly press the rope around the rim of the lid to seal the pot entirely. Cook the dish over lowest flame or electrical burner for 6 hours. If steam begins to escape from the pot, use additional manioc flour dough to patch the holes, making sure the pot stays sealed for the entire cooking process. Let the pot cool completely, then break the seal to open the pot. (Be careful when opening as there might still be steam in the pot.)

Remove the beef from the pot, leaving the cooking liquid in the pot. When the beef is cool enough to handle, shred the beef with two forks.

Pour the cooking liquid into a clean saucepan. Heat over medium heat and when the liquid is hot, sprinkle manioc flour, by the small handful, over the surface then mix in. Continue to add manioc flour slowly until the mixture thickens to the consistency of gravy.

Reheat the shredded beef if necessary, then place some in the bottom of 4 deep soup plates. Pour some  pirão over – enough to moisten the beef and provide a bit of gravy, but not enough to drown the meat. Garnish with slices of ripe banana and serve with plain white rice.

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