Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CUTS OF BEEF - Coxão Mole

From time to time Flavors of Brazil has dug into the arcane world of butchering in an attempt to clarify the differences between cuts of beef as they are found in Brazil and the cuts that result from a North American or European style butchering. Every culture has its own way of cutting up a beef carcass, and although some of the cuts might be made identically from one culture to another, but more often they are not.
The Three Graces
 by Peter Paul Rubens

The cut of beef that is the topic of this post, charmingly called coxão mole in Portuguese, is one of the most versatile and useful cuts of beef to know in Brazil. We say it is charmingly named because the  best English translation of coxão mole would be something like "big, soft thigh". (Makes one think of those voluptuous nudes who frolic around the edges of Rubens' painting).

This cut, which comes from the upper posterior part of the animal, also exists in English-style butchering where it is variously known as topside or silverside and in American-style butchering where it is referred to as top round. The cut isn't considered a first-class cut, like filet mignon or the prime steak cuts, but when properly cooked it can be one of the most delicious cuts from the entire animal.

Because coxão mole is very lean it is best suited to either roasting or to braising or stewing. If it is cooked quickly without liquid it can be very dry because of the absence of far. But a long cooking at low temperature, whether in a dry oven or in a brasing liquid, brings out the best in this cut.

In Brazil coxão mole is used in many traditional braised dishes where its qualities and flavor might shine. But it also has another very important role in traditional Brazilian cooking. Coxão mole is one of the most-preferred cuts to use when making carne de sol, Brazil's salted and dried beef. Because beef fat doesn't dry well, the leanness of coxão mole makes it perfect for undergoing the salting and drying process that creates carne de sol.

In Brazilian butcher shops it's also common to find lean ground beef that is made from coxão mole but it's in hearty Brazilian stews and braised dishes or disguised as carne de sol that coxão mole makes its true contribution to Brazilian cuisine.

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