MEAT AND BLACK BEAN STEW
The Brazilian Kitchen
by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz
Feijoada is one of the most famous dishes in Brazil. Rio, my hometown, is the feijoada capital of Brazil, and every Saturday in Rio smells of it. This is a serious gastronomic dish, but a simple one: a big stew of black beans with lots of different kinds of succulent meats. It's served with white rice, farofa, collard greens, and orange slices. Feijoada, like any stew, takes a few hours to prepare; however, it can handle a bit of neglect and still deliver an impressive result—just keep the temperature low at all times. As the beans simmer, the stew will get thicker and a glossy film should form on the top. Adjusting the consistency of the feijoada is easy: If it's too thick, add a bit of water and if it's too thin, simmer with the pan uncovered. Feel free to season with Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, or paprika.
Makes 8 To 10 Servings
• 4 cups dried black beans, picked and rinsed
• 4 pieces oxtail, about 1¼ pounds
• 1 pound top round, cut into big chunks
• 1 chorizo sausage, about 1 pound
• 1 tablespoon canola oil
• 1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1-inch cubes
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 1/2 cup chopped celery
• 1/2 cup chopped leeks
• 1/2 cup chopped shallot
• 1/2 cup chopped scallions
• 2 tablespoons minced garlic
• 3 bay leaves
• kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the beans in a very large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook, covered, for 1 hour, until the beans are just cooked but not too mushy. Set aside. (You can cook the beans in a pressure cooker if you want to save time, and it will only take you 15 to 25 minutes.)
2. Meanwhile, start preparing the meats and vegetables. Saute the oxtail, top round, and sausage, in batches, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a large bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven pan and cook the pancetta until lightly crispy. Add the onion, celery, leeks, shallots, and scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to blend with the other vegetables. Add the beans and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the meats and any accumulated juices from the bowl. Season very lightly with salt and pep- per and cover the pan. Simmer at low heat for about 3 hours, until the meats are tender and falling off the bones. Taste and adjust the seasoning again.
4. Serve with rice, farofa, collard greens, and a simple orange grapefruit salad.
Pig's feet? Pig's ears? Beef cheeks? In a traditional feijoada, any piece of meat from any kind of animal (pork parts, beef parts, carne seca, and linguica are the most common) can release a bit of flavor is thrown in the pan, even if it's just for the sake of flavor as I do when I use pig's ears. (I remove the ears just before serving.) There is a world of meats beyond steaks, ribs, and shoulders to explore and this is the perfect dish to venture into the land of unfamiliar cuts. Your best bet for finding these are a good butcher or ethnic markets, including Brazilian, of course. If the dish is too salty, transfer the meats from the beans. In my own interpretation of feijoada, the meats are sauteed before adding them to the beans. I think searing meats add a great flavor.