When I told my grandfather I’d be sharing a recipe for “carreteiro” in my next column, he immediately had some very important questions for me.
“Is your carreteiro saucy or dry?” he asked.
“Saucy, of course, just like Grandma makes it,” I replied.
“Good, good,” he said. “And do you use sausage or beef?”
“Sausage!” I exclaimed, truly unaware there was any other way to make this hardy dish I grew up eating.
These questions made me wonder, though, “Do I really know what carreteiro is?”
As I researched more about the history of this staple in southern Brazilian cooking, I found that carreteiro the dish is actually named after the carters that roamed the Brazilian countryside with their oxen-pulled carts in the late 19th century, transporting a variety of products in my home state of Rio Grande do Sul, which is where the dish originated, according to Estadao, a digital newspaper based in Brazil.
The original recipe is a dryer version than I’ve ever experienced.
That recipe uses a meat called carne-de-sol or meat of the sun. It also is known as charque, a meat that is salted and dehydrated before it is cooked with onions, water and rice. It is served with hard-boiled eggs and a sprinkle of parsley, according to Estadao.
The original recipe is logical considering the carters’ necessities for making meals on the road — using just a few shelf-stable ingredients, like dried meats, and making simple meals that were easy to cook. Although I am intrigued by this original recipe, it is not what I am sharing with you today.
The carreteiro of my childhood was always saucy, nearly soupy, and filled with sliced sausage or chunks of salami my grandfather had bought at a roadside stand the last time we took a road trip. It also featured many more vegetables than just onions.
The delicious mixture would then be served alongside small, fluffy French bread rolls or leaves of lettuce, perfect for wrapping into little bundles of flavor. Of course, the bites were never complete without a bit of mayo on top.
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I know this fancified version of carreteiro is a mere shadow of the original historic dish. But to me and my grandfather, the sauce and the sausage brings us just as much comfort as the charque brought to those carters so many years ago.
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1 tablespoon of oil
1 red onion, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 Polska kielbasa sausage, sliced to desired size
5 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
1 cup long-grain white rice, cooked
3 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup green peas
1 can corn kernels, drained
Chopped parsley to taste
Bibb lettuce leaves
Soft French bread rolls
First, begin cooking the rice as instructed, set aside a few minutes before the cooking instructions stated. You’ll want your rice to be “al dente.”
In a large stock pot, heat the oil and saute onions and green peppers on medium heat.
Once peppers are tender and onions are translucent, saute kielbasa sausage for a few minutes. Brown it a bit on both sides.
Add in your tomatoes, saute for a couple of minutes, then add in the cooked rice, vegetable stock and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add in your corn and peas, cook for an additional five minutes uncovered.
Season with salt, pepper and chopped parsley to taste.
Allow to cool and serve with bibb lettuce leaves as wraps, soft French bread rolls and mayonnaise on the side.
Source: Alexandra Olsen