BY ANNA OLSON
The beauty of this famous Brazilian grilled steak dish is its simplicity…it’s all about the beef! No fancy marinades or add-ons define picanha, but this top sirloin cap is lean, tender, and has a deep beef flavor which is heightened by grilling over high heat, charcoal if possible.
To complement the slices of grilled picanha, try this fresh, colouful vegetable salad. In summer, field vegetables are at their tastiest, but this salad has been designed to be just as delicious using Canadian hothouse gems, grown year-round.
- 1–2 tomatoes, diced
- ½ English cucumber, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 19-oz (540 mL) tin, chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 8–10 fresh basil leaves, chopped into thin strips
- 1 Top Sirloin Cap, about 1.5 kg
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2–3 Tbsp coarse salt
- For the salad, toss the tomato, cucumber, red pepper, green onion and chickpeas with the oil, vinegar, garlic and basil. Season to taste and chill until ready to serve.
- Pull the beef from the fridge about 40 minutes before cooking. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill on high heat, 450-500 °F (232-260 °C).
- Trim away the silverskin on the bottom of the picanha, and score the fat that is on the top. Cut the picanha along the grain into 5 or 6 thick steaks. Curve each steak into a “C” shape, with the fat on the outside of the “C” and skewer 2 to 3 steaks onto two parallel large metal skewers.
- Stir the olive oil and garlic together and brush this all over the steaks. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt all over the steaks. Grill the picanha (and don’t worry if it flames a little – that’s part of the authentic cooking process) 8-12 minutes, turning halfway through cooking (8 minutes for rare, 10 for medium-rare, 12 for medium). Let the picanha rest for 5 minutes before removing the skewers and slicing thinly across the grain to serve with the fresh salad.
* This Top Sirloin Cap is also called a Culotte, and it averages 1.5 kg in size.
* It is our go-to cut for grilling steaks in our house. It is ideal when grilling for a group with different tastes in doneness since, if cooked whole or cut into steaks, the tapered, thinner side can cook just past medium in the same time that the thicker side cooks just below medium rare.
* Coaxing a little bit of flaring up from the grill is actually encouraged as you cook picanha over high heat – the flames kiss the steak, creating a hint of char and melting the fat as it cooks, basting the steaks that are actually lean (little to no marbling)
* The trick of basting the surface of the steaks with oil before salting prevents the salt from dissolving into the meat, which is why you can salt generously. The salt on the surface helps to create a bit of a crust on the outside.
* While I have the grill on high, I also grill thick slices of bread to serve with the picanha. I rub the bread with a garlic clove, drizzle with oil and add a sprinkling of salt & pepper.