Let me introduce you guys to one of Brazil’s ultimate bar foods: Frango a Passarinho!
To Start, let me be honest about this name… I don’t even know how to translate that for you, but basically, it means something like: Chicken a la Little Bird. LOL sorry, I actually just cracked myself up with that one, but I swear it’s something like that. What really matters is, this is a dish with chicken cut into bite size pieces (get it? Chicken -> bite size -> little bird!!), seasoned and then… wait for it…. Deep fried!
Petiscos, as we call our tapas-style finger foods, are at the heart of our bar food scene and are traditionally pretty simple foods. We’re talking (for the most part) cheap, fried, all stupidly delicious! Just recently, old classics like Frango a Passarinho have been elevated, with the surge of ‘gastro pubs’. Either way, Cariocas (how people from Rio are called) go to botecos (how we call bars) first to drink and hang out with our friends and the food compliments that. Typically, we go out really late, say 10-11pm, so we have already had an actual dinner at home before we head out. All we need is a snack to accompany the drinks that last hours into the night. It is not uncommon to leave a bar in Rio when it is almost time to go back to the beach! So, to endure a night of drinking, petiscos need to be filling, preferably cheap and most importantly, easy to deal with. Why? Well, botecos are crowded and chances are you won’t be sitting at a table comfortably eating. It’s possible, but can be a bit hard.
The bar scene in Rio is like nothing else I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been and they are one of the things I miss the most about home. Check me and my besties out, on my last trip home last year: Hipódromo Up, Baixo Gávea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 2015
When you make Frango a Passarinho anywhere other than in Brazil, you will most likely have to deal with chopping the whole chicken yourself (see below step by step). If you really don’t want to go through all that trouble, you can just use wings, drumsticks, or whatever other parts you choose (just be mindful that bigger chunks will take longer to cook than smaller chunks). Other than that, I think we are ready to get started. If you love finger food, a cold beer on a hot summer night, and great company then give these little birds a shot! Make it, take a picture, and post it on IG #CookingWithAline
Any questions, let me know!
How to “little bird” your whole chicken:
Wash the bird and remove any excess skin near the bottom cavity (you can save it to fry as well, or discard)
Cut the thighs from the front, then crack the bones off the joint on the back.
Flip the bird on its back, and remove the legs and set them aside
Cut through the carcass vertically to separate the back from the breasts and wings (I keep the back to make stock)
Remove the wings and set them aside
Split the breasts (bone in)
Start to cut everything in chunks
Really… everything! (The 2 little “nails” to the left can be discarded, or added to your “save for stock pile”)
Split thigh and drumstick
And keep on chunkin’ (I also add that “heel” on the right to my save for stock pile)
Rinse with water and a little splash of vinegar to remove any loose broken bones
Now they are ready to brine.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, juice of one lime (thrown lime rind in there as well), the crushed garlic, the onion slices and mix well.
Cover with the buttermilk, and let it marinate covered in the fridge for at least 30mins (I marinate overnight ~8hours)
Remove the chicken pieces from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel and add the chicken pieces to a clean bowl or tray – this step and the dusting will prevent the wild splattering of fat, so don’t take them for granted!
Dust with the flour mixture
Render any extra fats and start with frying your garnishes first as this helps season the oil.
Add a little more oil and keep frying your garnishes…
Add the rest of the oil and start to fry them little birds!
Fry them until they are golden brown and delicious
aaaaannnd crack them cold beers open because you are done!
Frying and Oil Tips:
- First of all, please be careful when frying anything! An oil burn is nooooot fun!!
- I highly recommend pat drying and dusting with some flour anything that has been brined, or is “wet,” otherwise, all that moisture when in contact with the hot fat will cause crazy wild splashing that will like hurt you, or at the very least will be very annoying!
- Temp is everything when it comes to frying, so, if you are not an experienced fryer, I recommend using a thermometer. The temperature of the oil will go down as new, cool batches of food go into the oil, so adjust the heat as needed and keep your eye on your thermometer.
- To ensure longer shelf life, avoid keeping your oils in cabinets on top of your stove or by it – keep them in a cool dark place.
- If you want to re-use the fat you just used for frying your chicken, you can (assuming it isn’t too dark and cloudy already – anything darker than a Pale Ale is probably already too unstable to reuse). Make sure you let the oil cool a little, then filter the fat while still hot with a coffee filter, paper towel, or cheese cloth to remove any leftover sediments from the oil. Let the filtered oil cool to room temp and then add to a clean glass jar or cambro, and store in the fridge labeled with the date. Never mix used oil with new/unused oil.
- Oil does go bad! So, do not re-use if the oil smells ‘fishy’!
- Overusing frying oil is dangerous as it will smoke/burn faster. It will also grease up the food and won’t cook it thoroughly.
Any other questions, let me know!