Eat Drink Style Sergio Mendes & Café Brasil - A Brazilian Evening at the Hollywood Bowl

Last night, my friends and I started off the summer with an evening concert at the bowl. Being a huge fan of bossanova, I couldn’t miss Sergio Mendes’ 40th Anniversary show. Many of you may remember his KOST-song, “Never Gonna Let You Go”, but that doesn’t do any justice for this very-talented musician. He made a comeback recently and employed a new style of music featuring Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest), India Arie, John Legend and the super sell-outs Black Eyed Peas. If you haven't heard his CD, definitely check it out.

So to make the evening even more ‘bossanovy’, I decided to prepare a Brazilian-style meal for the eight of us. The day before, I planned my menu by looking at Café Brasil and Bossanova’s menus...

Garlic Skirt Steak
Chicken Stroganoff with Mushrooms (not pictured)
Feijoada (Pork/Black Bean Stew)
Fried Plantains
Sauteed Collard Greens
Café Brasil-style Salsa
Cheese-bread Balls
Garlic Rice

Mmmm, yes, tons of garlic. I love South American food because it’s so simple and fresh. With wine flowing and iPod bumping, I started cooking yesterday at 12:30 pm and finished at 5 pm. I really need to get a headband because when I’m cooking I’m all over the place. Here’s what I used for each dish:

Garlic Skirt Steak
I used skirt steak because it’s thin and holds marinades well. I added kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, garlic powder, meat tenderizer powder, fresh garlic, fresh onions, olive oil and a little bit of vinegar. I marinated the meat in the fridge for a good 3 hours so they definitely got to know each other well. Grill the meat and serve. Tastes good with a squeeze of lime over it.

Chicken Stroganoff with Mushrooms
Pan-fry some chicken breast until it’s 75% done. Remove and cook mushrooms and onions in the chicken fat with fresh garlic. Add as much cream as you need and throw the chicken back in once it comes to a boil. The recipe calls for sour cream, but I prefer crème fraîche which is rich and sour. Add ketchup for color. This dish should be slightly orange-pink. Serve over egg noodles or rice. This dish was awesome!

Feijoada Black Bean Stew
Traditional feijoada takes a whole day to cook and the recipe calls for stuff like pig ears, tails, hooves, snouts, lips, etc. Since I didn’t have any of that in my fridge, I decided to just use bacon. I have never cooked beans nor will I ever again. I didn’t know that I had to soak beans over night. It took nearly 3 hours to cook these little bastards. Once they were tender enough, I added a few ladels of the beans into a frying pan along with bacon, garlic, butter, olive oil, bay leaves and oregano. i mashed the beans and added them back into the main pot. This technique makes the beans ‘creamier’ and ‘mushier’. Salt and pepper to taste and eat with steak or rice.

Fried Plantains
You can make these blindfolded, with hands-tied, and tongs in the mouth. Cut up the bananas and deep fry them in canola/vegetable oil. Instant gratification.

Sauteed Collard Greens
Collard greens have a bitter, mustard-like taste, so the addition of sautéed garlic and a few squeezes of lime really counter it. Take the leaves, and roll them up. Chiffonade the collard greens so that appear thread-like. Saute with garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Another one of those I-can-do-this-blindfolded dishes.

Café Brasil-Style Salsa
This is one of the reasons I keep going back to Café Brasil. I love their salsa. Chop up tomatoes (don’t use the core of the tomato – too watery), onions, American parsley (not flat-leaf) and green onions. Add some olive oil, salt and pepper – and here are the two secret ingredients I found from a friend… Soy Sauce and Mustard (not French’s or Heinz)! This was so fresh and tasty. It’s better to prepare this near serving time because it likes to wet its pants. I had to drain these 3-4 times.

Cheese-Bread Balls
Known as “Pao de Quiejo”, these are light and cheesy. They taste like Cheetos! Freaking Café Brasil sells these for $0.85 each. Complete ripoff. Come to think of it, Café Brasil is a complete ripoff with exception to their $6.95 executive lunches, only available during the weekdays. I bought the Yoki cheese-bread mix at this Brazilian market on Venice/Overland for $2.99. I was able to make 34 of these. We gobbled these yellow breadballs up like Pac-man.

Garlic Rice
Just add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic, a little butter and salt to the water during the cooking process. Mix it around every few minutes. That’s it!

All of this goes well with a nice glass of Caipirinha (Brazilian Mojito) or a can of Guaraná, Brazil’s famous pop. I had heard that the guarana powder is also a performance enhancer. I have yet to experience that from a can of soda. And another thing, the people at Café Brasil charge $2.50 for a can of this. Go to the Brazilian market on Venice/Overland and get a 6-pack for $4.50.

We got to the Hollywood Bowl by 6 pm and I laid out the smorgasbord of Brazilian food. I made WAY too much food for the 8 of us. At one point in the show, I was so buzzed and tried to offer people the leftovers. Who would take food from a stranger? Four and a half hours of non-stop cooking sounds like a long time, but when the music is great, the wine is pouring and the friends aren’t throwing up your food in the trashcan, you can’t help but smile.

Thanks for reading.

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