Don’t even consider serving feijoada to a small group. The national dish of Brazil is best described as abundant and for this reason is a popular weekend feast for friends and family.
The origins of the dish have long been debated. There is a Portuguese feijoada that uses white beans and all parts of the pig that may have influenced the Brazilian version, said to have originated in Rio de Janeiro. Others credit the dish to slaves who worked in the kitchens on Brazilian plantations. These inventive cooks prepared a bean stew seasoned with bits and pieces of meat provided by their masters that may well have been an early version of today’s feijoada. Regardless of its history, the popularity of the feijoada in Brazil is indisputable – you’ll find it on tables all over the country.
What is feijoada? Dried black beans are slowly simmered with an astonishing array of meats and then served with sautéed greens, rice, orange slices, and a very addictive hot sauce. Pig feet and tails, smoked sausages, beef tongue, and even a Brazilian beef jerky (which is not allowed to be imported to the US) can all be found in a traditional feijoada.
Consider it an introductory experience, but in preparation for an upcoming neighborhood progressive dinner with a Brazil theme in honor of this summer’s Olympic games I came up with this recipe that uses beef roast, pork ribs, ham, and that favorite Southern ingredient smoked ham hock to make an equally delicious, but more approachable feijoada. For those that find dried black beans time-intensive, I’ve even adapted the recipe to accommodate canned beans.
For the adventurous cook who feels inspired the sky is truly the limit. A Portuguese version of the fresh linguica sausage used in Brazil may be found at your local international market (in Charlotte, check out Compare Foods) in addition to smoked pork chops, salted pork products (feet and tails – be sure to soak over night), and even smoked beef tongue. If going authentic, substitute meats as you see fit, but aim to have about the same amount of meat as in the original recipe. Saude!
Feijoada Completa (Black Bean Stew) – Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 8 to 10
This stew requires a good two hours in the oven, but the hands-on time is minimal. It can also be made a day in advance only improving in flavor as it sits in the refrigerator.
To be sure, the fun of a feijoada is the sheer variety of meats that you’ll find in it. Substitute meats as you wish, but aim to use approximately the same amount of meat as called for in the recipe for best results.
3 tablespoons olive oil or canola
2 ½ lbs beef chuck roast, cut into large 2-inch chunks
1 rack (about 2 1/2 lbs) St. Louis-style pork ribs, cut into individual ribs
1 smoked ham hock
1 large white onion, chopped
10 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 (1 lb 13 ounce) cans black beans, undrained
½ lb boneless ham steak or Canadian bacon, cut into small cubes
5 to 6 cups water
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven.
Pat the beef chunks dry with a paper towel and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and then add the oil. Brown the beef, working in two batches if needed, for about 3 to 4 minutes a side (8 minutes total). Remove the beef using tongs and set aside in a medium bowl. Brown the pork ribs, 3 to 4 minutes on each side, being sure to not overcrowd the pan. Set them aside with the browned beef.
Add the white onion to the pot and cook until soft and brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cumin and bay leaves and stir to combine. Stir in one (1 lb 13 oz) can of undrained black beans and then return the browned beef, browned pork ribs, and the ham hock to the pot. Add just enough water to cover the meat and then bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, cover tightly with a lid and foil (if lid is not tight-fitting), and move the pot to the preheated oven. Cook, undisturbed for 2 hours, or until the beef is tender and separates easily when prodded by a fork.
Place the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Stir in the remaining can of undrained black beans and the cubed ham. Let simmer for another 15 minutes then season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the fresh cilantro.
When ready to serve, remove the meats from the pot and arrange them decoratively on a large plate. Lightly brush the meats with some of the bean liquid to give them a nice glaze. The beans, which will be quite brothy, should be served in a separate bowl from the meat. Traditional accompaniments to this meal are sliced oranges, sautéed greens with garlic (kale or collards work great), and rice. Molho de pimenta y limão (recipe follows) is also mandatory for a truly authentic feijoada completa. And don’t forget the caipirinhas!
Molho de Pimenta y Limão (Lime and Hot Pepper Sauce)
Makes about 1 cup hot sauce
Traditionally pickled cumari peppers are used in this spicy hot sauce for feijoada. Unable to find cumari peppers at my local international market, I substituted pickled Tabasco peppers with equally good results. You can find pickled Tabasco peppers in the hot sauce section of most grocery stores; I am partial to Trappey’s Hot Peppers in Vinegar.
30 pickled Tabasco peppers, drained and sliced lengthwise (see headnote)
½ small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
½ cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Combine all the ingredients in a small jar. Shake or whisk to combine. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.