Rio recipes: How to throw a spectacular Olympics-watching party

Host an Olympics-watching party with these authentic Brazilian dishes and so-fun party tips. (Not to brag, but we think our recipe for Rio chocolate fudge balls deserves a gold medal!)

Photo by Veronika Kirchner

The long-awaited summer Olympics have nearly arrived! For two weeks, athletes from 207 of the world’s nations will proudly wear their countries’ uniforms and compete in 28 different sporting events, all in a hopeful quest to win gold.

Family fun, the Olympic spirit, and pulse-racing excitement will be on display everywhere. So why not celebrate this mega-event with friends and family by throwing a terrific and delicious Olympic party, Brazilian-style? Diversity is a value that we enthusiastically embrace in Brazil—with as many people as we can fit in the room. Check out For Her‘s Olympic-caliber menu, recipes, and party-planning tips to make your Rio-watching experience full of cheering, laughter, and really good food.

The menu:

Caipirinhas

Brazilian cheese rolls

Shrimp mini pot pies

Caramelized Brazilian oven-baked pork ribs, accompanied by roasted or grilled vegetables.

Brigadeiros (chocolate fudge balls)

How to make the meal:

Appetizers

Brazilian cheese rolls (Pão de Queijo)

Brazilian cheese rolls (Pão de Queijo)

Photo by Veronika Kirchner

Brazilian cheese rolls (pão de queijo) are naturally gluten-free and can be served as small party bites when your guests are arriving.

Preparation time: 12 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Serves: 15

Ingredients:

2 cups of tapioca flour
½ cup of whole milk
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp of vegetable oil (use extra to grease hands)
½ tsp of salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
3½ oz of queso fresco, crumbled
12 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese
¼–½ tsp of fresh thyme (if using dried herbs, cut amount in half), optional

Method:

1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F|180°C.

2. Place the tapioca flour in a large bowl and set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, mix together the milk, oil, and salt and bring to a boil.

4. Pour the hot liquid mixture into the reserved bowl of flour, stirring well with a wooden spoon.

5. Mix in the egg, and then add the crumbled queso fresco and grated Parmesan. Sprinkle the thyme if desired.

6. Knead the dough for about 2–3 minutes or until homogeneous. Make sure it is firm enough to roll into balls; if not, add a bit more of the tapioca flour to get the right consistency.

7. Lightly grease your hands with vegetable oil. Using a tablespoon as measurement, make balls of dough.

8. Place the rolls on the lined baking sheet and bake for 15–18 minutes or until they begin to lightly brown. Serve while still warm.

Note: Minas cheese is used to make Brazilian cheese rolls in Brazil. Because it isn’t readily available in the U.S., I suggest using Mexican queso fresco in this recipe.

Shrimp mini pot pies (Empadinhas de Camarão)

Shrimp mini pot pies (Empadinhas de Camarão)

Photo by Veronika Kirchner

Shrimp mini pot pies (empadinhas de camarão) are made from a flaky dough and filled with a creamy and chunky shrimp filling. They can be served as hors d’oeuvres or as your first course.

Preparation time: 75 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: medium

Serves: 50

Ingredients:

For the pot pie dough (see notes):

1 cup and 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp of granulated sugar
1 stick (or 8 tbsp) of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1 medium egg
1–½ tbsp of ice water (or a little more if necessary to help dough form into a ball)

For the pot pie filling:

1½ cups of low-sodium chicken stock or broth
1 tsp of tomato paste
4 tbsp (or ½ stick) of unsalted butter
½ cup of all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp of olive oil
¼ large yellow onion, small diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp of canned crushed tomatoes
12 oz of cooked shrimp (tail-off, peeled,and de-veined)
½ cup chopped hearts of palm (optional)
¼ cup of canned corn kernels (add ½ cup more if not using hearts of palm)
3 tbsp of chopped green olives
2 tbsp of chopped fresh chives or green onions
1 lightly beaten egg for the egg wash

Method:

Prepare the pot pie dough:

1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat in the butter at low speed until mixture is well combined, but still lumpy.

2. Add the egg and beat until just incorporated.

3. Add the iced water and beat until you get an homogeneous mixture. You might need to stop the electric mixer a few times to scrape together dough from the bottom and sides of the bowl.

4. Place the dough onto a floured surface, form a ball, and then press into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the pot pie filling.

6. In a medium stainless steel saucepan, bring the chicken stock or broth to a boil over high heat.

7. Reduce the heat to low and stir in tomato paste, whisking to dissolve.

8. In a different saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, add the flour, and stir well to make a roux.

9. Add a little bit of the warm stock, whisking well until combined.

10. Add the remaining stock and continue to whisk well constantly, over medium heat, until it thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

11. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.

12. Reduce heat to low, add the garlic, and cook for about one minute, stirring occasionally.

13. Add the crushed tomatoes and let cook for about 1 minute.

14. While tomatoes are cooking over low heat, process shrimp in a food processor until obtaining a lumpy mixture (with small pieces, not minced).

15. Add shrimp, hearts of palm (optional), corn, and olives.

16. Stir in and let cook for 1–2 minutes.

17. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

18. Stir in the shrimp mixture into the creamy chicken stock/broth.

19. Add the chives or green onions, taste, and adjust the seasoning (salt and pepper) if necessary. Let filling cool before using.

20. Remove the dough from the refrigerator for 15–20 minutes before rolling.

21. On a lightly floured surface (or a surface covered with a plastic sheet), roll the dough (using a floured rolling pin) into a very large circle about 1/16 ” thick (this will be a thin dough), working from center to edges. If easier, you can also cut the dough in half and roll into two large circles.

22. Using a 2⅓” and a 1¾” round cutter, cut about 48–50 discs of the larger size and a matching number of the smaller size. You might need to gather the leftover pieces of dough to obtain the full number of discs. To do this, form all the leftover dough into a ball, roll the dough again into a circle, and cut out additional discs.

23. Use a metal spatula to lift the discs and place the larger discs into the wells of two (24-count) mini-muffin baking pans, forming a mini cup (about 48–50 discs).

24. Using a teaspoon, scoop filling into each dough cup. Cover each dough cup with the smaller disc, pinching the edges together gently to seal. If desired, use a fork to make a pattern around the edges.

25. Using a paring knife, cut a tiny slit in the center so that steam can escape. Brush top with beaten egg and refrigerate mini pot pies for about 15 minutes.

26. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake mini pot pies for 13–15 minutes, or until light brown.

27. Place muffin pans on a rack and let cool just enough to handle shrimp mini pot pies. Serve pot pies warm by themselves or accompanied by a rosé sauce (a mixture of ketchup and heavy cream).

Notes: You can make the pot pie dough ahead of time and either refrigerate for up to four days or freeze for up to three months. Let the pot pie dough come to almost room temperature before rolling. The filling can also be prepared one or two days ahead and refrigerated. Assemble and bake shrimp mini pot pies on the day they will be served. If you prefer not to prepare the pot pie dough from scratch, you can substitute a good quality thawed pre-prepared pie crust.

Entree

Brazilian oven baked pork ribs (Costela de Porco Assada)

Brazilian oven baked pork ribs (Costela de Porco Assada)

Photo by Veronika Kirchner

Fall-off the bones, caramelized pork ribs are the centerpiece of your Olympics dinner!

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

Difficulty: easy

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

4 tsp of salt (1 tsp per pound)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1½ tsp of Dijon mustard
1½ tsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp of dried oregano
¼ tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of malagueta pepper or chili pepper (optional—if you do not like spicy foods, skip this ingredient.)
½ cup of apple cider vinegar
4 lbs of pork spareribs (whole)
vegetable oil (only for brushing)
honey (optional)

Method:

1. Blend the first 10 ingredients in a food processor or blender until you get a smooth mixture.

2. Put the ribs in a large, deep rectangular baking pan, spread the mixture over the ribs, and marinate for one hour at room temperature.

3. Preheat oven to 350ºF|180ºC.

4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, tightly sealing the edges so that steam will not escape (the ribs will braise in their own liquids and the marinade).

5. Let the ribs bake in the oven for approximately an hour and 50 minutes (25–30 minutes per pound).

6. Reserve the drippings/remaining marinade from the bottom of the pan and transfer ribs to another large baking pan.

7. Brush the top of the ribs with the oil (and then honey if desired) and increase oven temperature to 425ºF|220ºC.

8. Leave the pan uncovered this time and roast ribs for 10–25 minutes or until golden brown.

9. Brush/baste the ribs with the reserved drippings/marinade from the first pan and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve the pork ribs accompanied by roasted or grilled vegetables of your choice.

Notes: If you are not overly concerned about the visual appearance, you can leave the pork ribs braising in the liquids/drippings for an additional 10 or 15 minutes before caramelizing, which will result in an even more tender cut of meat. Although in Brazil we don’t use honey with meats, I love to brush my pork ribs with it because it gives a great balance of flavors to the pork ribs.

Cocktail

Caipirinha

Caipirinha

Photo by Veronika Kirchner

Brazil’s national cocktail drink is made from lime and cachaça.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Difficulty: 5 minutes

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
1 tbsp of sugar (brown, refined or crystallized)
ice cubes
3 tbsp of cachaça

Method:

Place lime and sugar into a small glass. Mash the two ingredients together using a pestle, muddler or a wooden spoon. Fill the glass with ice and stir in the cachaça.

Notes: A wide variety of fresh fruits can be used in place of lime. In the absence of cachaça, vodka can be used, making a caipiroska.

Dessert

Brazilian chocolate fudge balls (Brigadeiros)

Brazilian chocolate fudge balls (Brigadeiros)

Photo by Veronika Kirchner

Brazil’s famous and most beloved chocolate fudge balls … they are made with only five ingredients and are to die for!

Preparation time: 22 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Serves: 28

Ingredients:

1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup of baking cocoa powder
2 tbsp of unsalted butter (softened) plus extra to grease plate and hands
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
chocolate vermicelli or good quality chocolate sprinkles

Method:

1. Whisk the condensed milk and cocoa powder together until you get a smooth mixture without lumps of cocoa powder.

2. Stir in the butter.

3. Cook in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium–low to medium heat (large burner), stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and starts to “peel away,” or show the bottom of the pan, when you scrape it with a wooden spoon (about 5–8 minutes). The chocolate fudge mixture should be thick enough to show you the bottom of the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture levels out again.

4. When chocolate fudge is ready, remove from the stove top, mix in the vanilla extract, and spread mixture onto a greased plate.

5. Let cool to room temperature before starting to roll them into balls with greased hands. Use a teaspoon or tablespoon as measurement.

6. Dredge gently in the chocolate vermicelli until totally covered, and place into paper bonbon cups.

Notes: These chocolate fudge balls can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. The mixture can be also stored, covered well, in the refrigerator for up to four days, brought to room temperature, and then rolled into balls. If you don’t get the right consistency and the cooked mixture is so soft that cannot be rolled into balls, the alternative is to serve brigadeiros piped on spoons or into shot glasses/cups to be eaten with small spoons—like we do in Brazil.

How to make your Olympic party extra-special

1. Since this is a worldwide celebration, dress up in the colors of the countries that you will be cheering for.

2. Take bets on who you think will win each competition, and order or buy from a party store some inexpensive medals to hand out to your guests when they win.

3. Decorate your space with international flag hanging streamers, or Olympic rings made out of balloons.

4. Playlist: a mix of samba (Rio’s most popular music and dance genre), Katy Perry’s Olympic anthem Rise, We Are The Champions by Queen—and anything else that makes you want to get up and dance.

5. With the kids, make edible Olympic torches out of ice cream cones and popcorn or Cheetos, and garnish your finger foods with flag toothpicks.

Denise Browning
Denise Browning
Denise Browning is a native Brazilian, professional chef, and author of From Brazil To You, the largest Brazilian food blog in the English language. She lives in Texas with her husband and children. When she is not cooking like a mad woman, she is devouring all kind of outrageously delicious things.