With its beautiful beaches, festive carnival, champion soccer teams, and now the Olympics, Brazilian food is on the rise.
To celebrate life and my country, I like to throw many Brazilian parties. Typically, that equals good friends, wonderful music, ice-cold caipirinhas, and lots of delicious food. If you’re tired of the same old cocktail party, Brazilian is the way to go. Here are some of my favorite quick and easy tips and recipes for hosting a Brazilian-style cocktail party at home.
Finding Brazilian Foods in the U.S.
While many of the ingredients found in this country are very comparable to those found in Brazil, every now and then you have to compromise. For example, in Brazil I serve my Stuffed Crab Shells in small crab shells, whereas in the U.S., I’ll use a scallop shell. Other times, this compromise is hardly a sacrifice at all. In Brazil, Manchego cheese is hard to find and extremely expensive, so I use Gouda. Lucky for us, I find Manchego to be the superior choice.
Before you begin cooking, make sure you have all the ingredients necessary. It might require a trip to Little Brazil in New York City (46th Street at Fifth Ave.), a Brazilian store in your area, or on the Internet.
Setting A Brazilian Mood
There are many different ways to create a Brazilian feel for your party, and music will certainly play a big roll. Download songs from iTunes, or opt for Pandora's Brazilian playlist. Artists like Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, and Sergio Mendes will certainly appear; don't forget more contemporary artists like Maria do Céu, simply known as Céu, and Marisa Monte, too. For the décor, set the table with green and yellow linens and create arrangements with beautiful flowers in orange, red, or yellow tones. Anything vibrant that matches our flag colors works!
A Word About Caipirinhas
This Brazilian drink is not the type of cocktail to be served out of a pitcher, nor can you prepare it in advance. For the sake of great taste, each caipirinha must be prepared individually and immediately poured into a wide, sturdy glass. Set up a bar in advance so that making a drink for each guest isn't difficult or time-consuming. And don’t worry — making caipirinhas doesn’t take more than a minute or so per cocktail, and it’s fun to make them — think of it as a taste of Brazil in a glass!
I come from Rio de Janeiro, where the dining scene is very casual. Even better, popular foods like bar foods — or as we call them Portuguese, petiscos — don’t cost a fortune. A Brazilian cocktail party wouldn’t be complete without these simple recipes for foods that scream party. To make the day of your party easier and more relaxed, I suggest making some of your appetizers in advance.
Make these to order as your friends arrive — or designate a guest or two to be the official caipirinha-makers.
You can make these up to a week in advance and keep them in the freezer. Grab a few and reheat them in the oven just as guests arrive. The warm and cheesy aromas that arise from the kitchen will certainly impress your friends.
Prepare the shells ahead of time and bake them for a few minutes just before serving. People love this appetizer!
Assemble these during the party so they’re warm. I like to prepare these while talking and cooking with a friend over the stove, caipirinha in hand, of course.
Prepare the batter the morning of the party, but fry these up just before serving as they’re best served hot. (Photos courtesy of Leticia Moreinos Schwartz)