Let me introduce you guys to one of Brazil’s ultimate bar foods: Frango a Passarinho!
First of all, let me be honest about this name… I don’t even know how to translate it for you. Basically, it means something like: Chicken a la Little Bird… which is embarrassingly weird.
Frango What?! What is Brazilian Fried Chicken?
Chicken a la Little Bird is too weird a name for us to use, but here is whyyyy I even mentioned it. Frango a Passarinho is a dish where the chicken is cut into bite size pieces. I mean, reaaally. For example, a wing is chunked up into 3-4 pieces. In other words, chicken -> bite size -> little bird!! Geeeeet it?
But, like I said, too weird!! Since the bite size pieces of chicken are deep fried, we can just call it Brazilian Fried Chicken, yes? Yes!!
Petiscos | Brazilian Finger Foods
Brazilian Fried Chicken is a petisco, which is what we call our tapas-style finger foods. Petiscos 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 friends. The food just compliments that interaction.
Typically, we go out late, so, in may cases, we have already had an actual dinner at home before we head out. All we need is a snack to accompany the drinks that can last hours into the night. So, to endure a night of drinking, petiscos need to be filling, preferably cheap and most importantly, easy to deal with. Why? Because, botecos are crowded and chances are you won’t be sitting at a table comfortably eating. It’s possible, but sometimes it can be hard.
The bar scene in Rio is like nothing else I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been. They are one of the things I miss the most about home. Check me and my besties out, on my last trip home: Hipódromo Up, Baixo Gávea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 2015
Brazilian Fried Chicken Outside of Brazil
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). So, if you really don’t want to go through all that trouble, you can just use wings, drumsticks, or whatever other parts you choose.
If you love finger food, a cold beer on a hot summer night, and great company, give these little birds a shot! Make it, take a picture, and post it on IG #CookingWithAline
Any questions, let me know!
Brazilian Fried Chicken Step by Step
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 save the back to make stock!!
Remove the wings and set them aside
Split the breasts (bone in)
Start to cut everything in chunks
Note: 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. Add the chicken pieces to a clean bowl or tray. Note: 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. You are finally done!
Some Frying Tips:
- First of all, please be careful when frying anything! An oil burn is nooooot fun!!
- Moisture when in contact with the hot fat will cause crazy wild splashing that will likely hurt you, or at the very least will be very annoying! Therefore, I highly recommend pat drying and dusting with some flour anything that has been brined, or is “wet”.
- Temp is everything when it comes to frying. 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. As a result, you will need to 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!
Brazilian Fried Chicken
- 1 whole chicken cut into chunks *step by step above wings OK to use
- 1 whole lime plus lime slices and wedges for garnish and serving – optional
- 2-3 crushed garlic cloves plus 2 garlic cloves sliced for garnish – optional
- ½ onion sliced
- 2-3 cups of buttermilk
- salt and pepper to taste
- ~1 cup of flour mixed with 1TBSP of corn starch, for dusting
- 1-2 quarts of frying oil I recommend vegetable, Peanut or canola oils – lards and Crisco ok also **please see note regarding oils below
- 1 TBSP chopped parsley for serving
- In a medium bowl, season chicken pieces with salt and pepper
- Season with the juice of one lime and thrown lime rind in there as well
- Add 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 place the chicken pieces in a clean bowl or tray
- Add about a tsp of salt to the flour and corn starch mixture and dust the chicken pieces, mix well to combine, set aside (you do not need to use all the flour, we just want to dust the chicken so the flour absorbs some of the moisture and help create a crisp outer layer – image above)
- Add about a tsp of the oil to a deep pot or frying pan and fry lime slices to use as your garnish and to flavor the oil (optional), after the limes are fried, removed them and place them in a tray lined with paper towels
- Add about 2 more tbsp of oil to the pan and fry the garlic slices until they are golden brown, then remove them from the heat and place them on the paper towel lined tray
- Add the rest of the oil to the pan and heat to 350 degrees
- Working in batches, fry in hot oil until golden brown and delicious (~14ish mins), then remove them and place in a tray lined with paper towels (or leave them in a cooling rack)
- Serve with lime wedges, fried lime slices and the fried garlic chips – hit it with some more salt and pepper to taste, if needed