By Flavor & The Menu
July 7, 2019
Neri Giachini is the head gaucho chef and director of operations for Fogo de Chão churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse based in Plano, Texas. He’s been with the company since he was 17, and brings with him a heritage rooted in a southern Brazilian town called Xanxerê, where his passion for food was born. At Fogo de Chão, Giachini shares his love of Brazilian food culture that’s proudly centered around meat. Menu highlights include picanha, a signature steak cut from the prime part of the top sirloin, seasoned with rock salt and sliced thinly, along with linguiça, a spicy pork sausage with notes of garlic, chile and onion. We asked Giachini to share his top five pantry flavors with us.
Some consider chimichurri to be a condiment, but it’s so much more—it’s the ultimate flavor enhancer. A few of my favorite grilled meats like picanha (prime part of top sirloin) and fraldinha (bottom sirloin) taste even richer and bolder with the perfect complement of acid and oil, garlic, red pepper and herbs in a great chimichurri.
If you’ve ever been to Brazil, you know it can get pretty hot during the summer, but there’s nothing quite as hot as the malagueta pepper. A staple in Brazilian and Portuguese cooking, this pepper packs a great deal of heat, but when it’s combined with honey and drizzled on Brazilian-style grilling cheese, the finished product is a craveable dish of sweet heat. I also like to add a few drops of malagueta pepper sauce to a Bloody Mary.
As a gaucho chef at a Brazilian restaurant, I have an abundance of pineapple, mango, guava and other tropical fruits in my kitchen. We incorporate these sweet, sour and acidic ingredients in some of our most popular food and beverage items, like our Blood Orange Manhattan that infuses guava into the drink to balance the sour orange, or even the addition of grilled pineapple to an indulgent serving of grilled pork belly.
I can’t pick just one, but legumes are a must when it comes to adding texture, flavor and protein to a salad. Plant-based, nutrient-dense legumes like chickpeas and French lentils are core ingredients to many of my favorite dishes.
One of my favorite brands is Xingu, from the heart of Brazil. It’s one of the country’s most beloved beer exports. Xingu imparts a deep, rich caramel flavor when braising tender, slow-roasted beef ribs. It gives our Braised Beef Rib Sliders a balanced finish.