Tuesday, May 3, 2011

BEEF CUTS - Lagarto (Eye Round)

#10 - Lagarto
As part of Flavors of Brazil's continuing series of posts on Brazilian cuts of beef today's offering is a cut of beef with a rather strange name in Portuguese - largarto. The word lagarto in fact has at least two entirely different meanings in Portuguese. It can refer to a cut of beef, or alternatively it means "lizard." What a relatively lean cut of meat from the posterior portion of a cow has to do with a saurian reptile is hard to say - maybe nothing except that they share a name.

Context is usually a clue to the correct meaning of a word when more than one meaning exists. When a butcher shop in Rio de Janeiro or Salvador posts a sign saying "LAGARTO - $R10/KG" there are very few if any potential customers that imagine they'll be receiving lizard meat! Especially at that price...

In any case, this cut is very easy to translate into English as the same cut is produced by American and European butchers. In English it's called eye round or eye of round.  Round steak cuts come from part of the animal's hip muscle and in the American system of butchering, round steak is subdivided into top round, eye (of) round and bottom round.

Lagarto (eye of round) is a very lean cut of meat and measures must be taken when cooking it to assure that it doesn't become dried out. One option is to braise it for a very long time in some sort of liquid. Another is to cook it at very high temperature, but for a very short time only, which allows time for the meat to cook but not enough time for it to lose its juices.

Brazilians use both techniques to cook lagarto. They often marinated it in red wine and then cook it in the wine to make a dish similar to a pot roast. Or it's put on a very hot grill and removed before it can dry out.

Lagarto is also the one cut of beef that Brazilians from all regions of the country are likely to eat cold. Cold sliced roast beef is usually made from lagarto in Brazil, and the cut is also used to make raw-beef carpaccio, an Italian import that has become hugely popular in Brazil.

Lagarto is quite an inexpensive cut of beef here in Brazil, and when properly handled it can be delicious. It's leanness means that it has fewer calories and less cholesterol than many other cuts of beef. Cooks who know how to treat it can take advantage of its relatively low price to produce an outstanding beef dish without an outstanding bill at the butcher shop!

Tomorrow, Flavors of Brazil will post a typically Brazilian recipe for lagarto. And we promise it will be for beefsteak, not for lizard!

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