Friday, August 5, 2016

Feijoada, Brazilian Black Bean Stew

 Are you as excited for the Olympics as I am??? If you know me, you know that I don't watch sports AT ALL. But when it's time for the Olympics, I'm glued to the TV for two weeks. I love all of it! The ceremonies, the victories, the lifelong dreams, the backstories, and of course I love learning about the culture of the host city. When I learned that the Olympics were going to be held in Rio, I immediately started researching Brazilian recipes. I decided to go with their national dish, which is this delicious and hearty black bean stew called Feijoada (pronounced fay-ZHWA-da).
 Now, I have to confess, I had never heard of it, I've never cooked Brazilian food, and the closest I've ever been to Brazil was when I went to a Brazilian restaurant. But from what I understand (and correct me if I'm wrong) this is one of those dishes that has as many versions as there are home cooks. Everyone has a family recipe, which of course is better than any other. This is clearly Brazilian comfort food at its best! I just like the fact that it's another delicious stew to add to my repertoire. You put the pot on the stove, let it simmer all afternoon, and the whole house smells amazing. 
 I made this for my family's Opening Ceremonies party (in which everyone brings a different International dish), but you don't have to have a party to make this. Just pick a Sunday when you know you'll have a few hours at home and let it simmer all day. I promise you'll be glad you did!

1 lb dry black beans
a few glugs of olive oil
1 lb boneless pork, cut into chunks
1 lb beef cubes
2 large onions, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb carne seca or corned beef, cut into chunks
1/2 lb sausages, such as chorizo or Italian sausage
1 lb smoked sausage, such as linguica or kielbasa
1 smoked ham hock or shank
3-4 bay leaves
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Fresh parsley or cilantro
sliced oranges

 Pour boiling water over the black beans and let them sit while you prepare the rest of the stew.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and brown the pork. When it has browned, remove the meat from the pot, set aside. Do the same thing with the beef cubes, removing them from the pot after browning. Now add the onions to the pot. Brown them, stirring occasionally, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic and stir well. Add the beef and pork back to the pot along with the other meats and the bay leaves. Add just enough water to cover. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Let it simmer for about an hour. Drain the black beans from their soaking liquid and add them to the stew. Simmer gently, covered, until the beans are tender, about an hour and a half. Add the tomato paste, and stir well. Continue to simmer, uncovered for about another hour or until the meat begins to fall off the ham hock. Serve over white rice with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or cilantro and a few slices of fresh orange. A classic side dish would be sautéed collard greens, if desired.

The key to this dish is having lots of different meats and letting them simmer for a long time. It also lends itself to using whatever kind of meats you like. It's basically just a lot of pork and beef, leaning a little more on the pork side. Do you like things spicy? Use a spicy sausage to flavor your stew and serve it up with some hot sauce. You could also add some crushed red pepper. 
Full disclosure, the addition of the tomato paste is not authentically Brazilian, but I found several recipes that include it, so I went with it. I've also seen recipes that use different kinds of beans, white beans, etc, but from what I understand, black beans are classically used here.
I didn't add any salt at all because there is quite enough from the corned beef, the ham hock and the smoked sausage. Just sayin!

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