Friday, June 04, 2010

Feeling Like Feijoada?

Call it braising, stewing or what-have-you, but long-simmered ingredients are common to most cultures, whether they eat meat or not. I consider thick soups (we call it "stewp") to be in the same category, since they're hearty and comforting and nutritious all at once.

And with the record-setting rainy days we've been having lately…heck, let's just call them downright ugly…having something warming all day on a back burner is just what the doctor ordered. The other evening the prescription was filled by our friends Judy and Tom, who recently moved here from California.

At one time Tom was a guest professor in Brazil, and Judy learned to make several of the local specialties, including a fabulous feijoada, a stew of beans and meat that, depending on where you look, came from Portugal to Brazil with early settlers or originated with African-descended cooks in colonial Brazil. Either way, it has since become the national dish. To make the invitation even more attractive, they let it slip that Tom was making caipirinhas (right) to accompany the meal. Little did they know that just saying "How would you like to come over?" is normally enough for us to jump.

Walking in, we were met by the aroma of meaty goodness wafting toward us, the source being a pot of reddish liquid bubbling away in the kitchen, with large hunks of beef and pork slowly melting into it. Beforehand I'd suggested to Judy that a trip to Gartner's might be in order, and they were astonished that in the (seeming) miles of cases were all the sausages, tongue and pork parts the recipe called for.

That recipe came from a book called Brazilian Cookery by Margarette de Andrade, an American who married a Brazilian journalist and diplomat, then became an expert on the cuisine of her adopted country. As Ms. de Andrade suggested, Judy separated the beans and meat, serving the beans over rice, then passing the meat on a platter. That was then topped with a Brazilian version of pico de gallo (onions, tomatoes, cilatro, olive oil, vinegar and salt) and sprinkled with a granular cassava or manioc flour that helps to sop up some of the fat and juices from the meat. All this and sides of collards sautéed with bacon and orange slices…well, to put it mildly, we were in heaven.

All it takes is a glance at the recipe to appreciate how much time and work went into making this meal the spectacular success it was. For something simply called a "stew," it's no easy feat. Here's to talented friends!

Feijoada No. 1
From "Brazilian Cookery: Traditional and Modern" by Margarette de Andrade

5 c. black beans
1 lb. jerked beef [carne seca in Brazil - optional]
1 small smoked tongue [unsmoked is fine]
1/2 lb. Canadian bacon
1 lb. fresh sausages
1 lb. corned spareribs [plain are fine, too]
1 lb. smoked sausages or Portuguese sausages
2 pig's feet [optional]
1 lb. lean beef, cut in half
1/4 lb. lean bacon
1 Tbsp. shortening [olive oil is fine]
2 lg. chopped onions
3 crushed garlic cloves
1 chopped tomato (optional)
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley (optional)
1 crushed hot pepper (optional)

Pick over beans, wash and soak overnight in cold water. Soak jerked beef, tongue, Canadian bacon overnight in separate pans of cold water. Next morning, drain the beans (if any liquid remains), cover with fresh cold water and cook for about 2 1/2 hours in covered saucepan, adding, as needed, sufficient water to keep the beans covered. When beans are cooked and tender, remove about 1/4 c. of the bean liquor and set aside to cool and to be used for preparing the special hot sauce served with the Feijoada.

Meanwhile, as the beans are cooking, prepare the meats as follows, always removing them from the liquid in which they were cooked: Drain the jerked beef, cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour, or until fork tender. Remove, cut into 1-inch strips and set aside. Parboil tongue long enough to be able to remove skin, and set aside. Prick fresh sausages, parboil [or brown] and set aside. Parboil Canadian bacon, spareribs, smoked sausages and pig's feet and set aside.

Place all the meats, except the fresh pork sausages but including the beef and bacon, in a very large saucepan, cover with tepid water, slowly bring to a boil and simmer until the meats are tender (about 1 1/2 hours). Drain all the meats and add to the beans with the pork sausages. Simmer until meats are very tender and beans are soft enough to mash easily. Season with salt.

About 1/2 hour before serving melt the shortening in a large skillet and gently sauté the onions and garlic. If the optional ingredients are desired, they also should be sautéed at this time. Add about 2 c. or ladles of the beans and mash with a wooden spoon or mallet. Pour about 2 c. of the bean liquor over the mixture, simmer until mixture thickens, then return to the pot containing beans and meats. Simmer until thoroughly blended, about 1/2 an hour. Taste and correct seasoning.

To serve: Remove the meats from the beans and slice so that each person may have a small portion of the various kinds of meat. According to long-established custom, the tongue is placed in the center of the platter and the smoked meats at one end while the fresh meats are arranged attractively at the other end of the platter. Moisten the meats with a small ladle of the bean liquor.

The beans are served in a soup tureen or deep serving dish. The guest helps himself to an assortment of meats and places a serving of Brazilian Rice [rice with onion and tomato - Judy said most places just use plain rice] to one side of the plate. The beans with their rich sauce are ladled over the rice while manioc meal or Butter Farofa [butter, egg, onion, manioc meal] is sprinkled over the beans or meats. Sliced oranges and Couve à Mineira [kale or collards cooking in bacon fat] accompany the feijoada as well as a special hot sauce, Molho de Pimenta e Limao [pepper and lemon "sauce," a version of the pico de gallo mentioned above], to which some of the bean liquor is added. Brazilian rum [cachaça, more properly a brandy since it is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice rather than the molasses used for rum] is also served with this meal or else a Batida [a mixed cocktail, like the caipirinha mentioned above, made with cachaça].


SEH said...

Judy's feijoada is soooo good!!

Kathleen Bauer said...

It's certainly the best I've had…though a trip to Brazil to compare could be fun!