In my best 60s TV chef voice:
Hello darlings, and welcome to today's episode of "What have I cooked recently"?
Bit more normally now:
It was Jr's birthday last week, and before we knew it, we had 21 adults and a bunch of kids coming round for lunch. When, earlier in the year we wondered if it might happen, we thought we'd do something outside, you know, 'cos it' summer... Closer to time, the forecast was for rain. But I still wanted to do something other than a buffet or burgers. So I decided to have a go at "Costela de boi" aka ribs Brazilian style. Had the weather been more clement, and had I the resources, I would have cooked it properly, which is to say low and slow over hot coals/embers. It takes between 4 and 6 hours, depending on how much you're cooking, and you spend that time drinking and regulating the heat - playing with the height above the embers, and dampening the heat with ashes when needed. It is a labour of love, and a great way to while away the time with friends and several drinks.
In the rain, and in Europe, you need to tweak a few things.
1. Chat up your butcher. This isn't a regular cut in the UK (or Europe), so it's hard to find, and not many butchers will have heard of it, or be willing to prepare it for you. But it's not impossible.
2. An oven, a load of foil, time, and booze.
So, to the task.
Get a large hunk of beef, in particular, the ribs, cut long, if you can with the skirt still attached, and leading well into the brisket. This is part of the reason why butchers will need a bit of convincing: skirt is sometimes sold (often discarded) and cutting into the brisket "ruins" the rest of it for sale to others. For 20ish people, you'll need a total weight of around 9-10Kg - in our case it was 8 ribs worth. It'll look something like this:
When it comes to cooking it, make sure it's at room temperature, score the top layer of fat and flesh (will make a good canapé) and sprinkle a generous amount of rock salt. Ideally I like to use chunks that are about 1cm cubed, but use whatever you can. It will make the outer parts, and the juices very salty, but you'll regret using too little with the resulting flavour of the rest of the beef.
If you're doing this properly, that's it for seasoning and prep. You run it through with your skewers and over to the fire (about 60cm over the coals, which should be a good mix of red and white; manage the supply carefully over the time). If you're busking it, and your oven is regular size, you need to cut this gorgeous carcass in two, and wrap in foil. Seal it in the stuff, no leaks. Don't add any liquid, it's not needed. Make sure it's all wrapped nice and tight, and won't leak. It'll look a bit like this:
Onto trays, and into an oven pre-heated to somewhere between 125C and 140C. Leave it to sit, don't open the door, don't move it, for at least 4 hours. I prefer 6 hours. Use the time wisely. In this case, we prepared some garlic bread (done as pizzas, about half a dozen), a load of boerwors, salads, and got through (with help!) about 8l of Pimms.
After the 6 hours, remove the meat from the oven, reserve the juices (you'll get about a litre) transfer the meat onto other trays (in this case, one large tray), and crank up the heat in the oven - going for a reverse sear. In my case, we whacked up the temp in the wood oven, first for the garlic bread (pizza style), and then for the beef. The oven was at around 600C when the beef went in. It got about 4 minutes (give or take, I wasn't timing), but you can watch the top crisp up as if it were crackling; take it out when it looks ready.
Then you get ready to serve. Pull out the bones and when cool feed to any available dogs. The top layer of crackling goes into small squares, and served on a platter with a sprinkling of herbs and some lime. The ribs away from the brisket side get sliced and diced (you can do it with a spoon), and then the brisket side gets sliced and served. The juices can be used sparingly as seasoning (remember they are very salty), and I keep the rest as home-made stock cubes. You'll have a fair amount of beef fat that you can put to other uses, and not much waste beyond that. No barbecue sauce or rubs needed.
Give it a go at home, it's well worth it!