The first time I ever took a bite of a Pão de Queijo (pronounced ”Pon de Kay-joe”) was at a Brazilian steak house/Churrascaria in Los Angeles called Fogo de Chao. They present them hot in a little basket and wrapped in a white napkin. They are very simply little baked cheese balls made with tapioca flour.
Fogo de Chao is a churrasqueria aka, meat lovers paradise. You pay a set fee and eat unlimited amounts of grilled meats. I will tell you more on that on another post. Back to my cheese balls. I am not sure if they do this intentionally, but I don’t know any warm blooded human being who would be able to each just one piping hot and gooey on the inside pao de queijo and save room for meat. I ate and ate and they brought me more and more. So the rub is that I had very little room for juicy perfectly medium rare meat served on skewers by friendly Brazilian people. I made a grand effort and powered down some meat, but I couldn’t get the light, warm and cheesy balls off the brain. This would probably mark one of the only times in my life that I stole something and felt no remorse. Churrasquerias are all you can eat, so they don’t let you take food home and this restaurant would not sell me any cheese balls, so they left me no other option but to order more and sneakily stuff the balls, napkin and all straight into my purse. I seriously considered courting one of the bus boys in order to maintain a steady supply of cheese balls. ( I will not confirm or deny whether this actually happened )
Recently, while cruising the fancy food show, I got a big waft of cheese ball goodness. I followed the scent to the Forno de Minas booth and found a little warming box with cute little pao de queijo’s yearning for me to eat them. This company was selling packs of frozen pao de queijo, but they had not yet found distribution in the USA. When I got home, I went straight to my computer to find them and their web site was completely in Portuguese. Boo hoo. I pouted and realized that it was probably for the best since I had a wedding dress to fit into in the near future.
A little while ago I was meeting a florist and the guy happened to be from Brazil, so the first thing I said was, I LOVE pao de queijo! And he said, in the cutest accent ever, you can get them frozen in the Mission area of San Francisco at a Brazilian grocery store. I almost began to cry as if I had been reunited with a long lost relative.
If you are Colombian and reading this, you are probably mad at me because we have pan de queso in Colombia, but perdoname sweetie, they just aren’t as good.
As I write this, I have my oven at 375 on the hottest day in San Francisco in many many months. I don’t care. I will also include a link to a recipe from SimplyRecipes that is supposed to be easy and yummy. I have not made this recipe. The lovely Brazilian woman at the Mercado Brazil suggested I set my oven to 375, instead of 350, which the package indicates and if making them from scratch, she suggested using Cotija cheese that can be found in the Mexican grocery stores. I don’t normally eat a lot of bread because I end up looking like a loaf of bread, but I ate 6 of these hot puppies and would have eaten more if I hadn’t shared the rest with others. I really want to try making them from scratch. The photo on SimplyRecipes looks more like little popovers, but I think they are pretty similar in texture and taste similar to the pre-made Forno de Minas balls that I made today. If you want to find the frozen kind, I recommend you Google Brazilian grocery stores in your area. Obrigada!
Note: These cheese balls are gluten free because they are made with Tapioca flour. You should be able to find Tapioca flour at Whole Foods or most natural food stores.