Many of the countries represented in this year's World Cup have a national dish that they consider their own; Yorkshire pudding in the U.K., kimchi in South Korea, wienerschintzel in Austria, Tom Yum (one of the few) in Thailand and many more. In Brazil, the dish to have is feijoada (fey-jwah-duh). Feijoada won’t be found in the U.S. on the menus of Fogo de Chao or other churrascarias, but the flavors found in a bowl of feijoada is enough to battle any night out with wandering spits of barbecued meats.
The word feijoada comes from the word feijão, which is Portuguese for beans. Feijoada is a black bean stew that is brewed with a variety of salted and smoked pork and beef products from carne-seca to smoked pork spareribs. The more traditional feijoada also includes “cheaper” cuts such as pig’s ears, feet and tails, and beef tongue. The rich, smoky stew is then served with rice, sautéed collard greens or kale, orange slices and topped with toasted cassava flour (farofa). The meal is just as warm, comforting, rich and vibrant as the music, people and culture of Brazil.
It is on the menu at every food establishment from casual buffets to the top restaurants. The dish is so integrated into Brazilian culture that Saturday is known as the day of feijoada. It is not just a meal but also an event to share with family and friends.
But, where does this national symbol come from? Feijoada’s origin has recently come under questioning. The long-believed tale is that it was created by slaves on sugar cane plantations who took the scraps of meat not eaten by their masters (pigs ears, feet and tails) and cooked them with black beans, which were native to Brazil and the foundation of the slaves' diets. However, recent Brazilian scholars disagree with the basis of this story. The main setback is that the “scraps” of meat were actually highly regarded at the time by the Europeans. Also, feijoada has more of a resemblance to the European stews, most specifically the pork and bean cozido from Portugal, than the native and African bean dishes. The slaves may have been the ones who first started making feijoada, but most likely they were making it for their masters’ palates.
Feijoada is one of those acts of love that takes time and a little TLC to make. A good recipe is a great guide for creating feijoada in the home. Celebrity chef and restauranteur Emeril Lagasse shares his recipe along with tips on making this emblem of Brazil (below).
What are the flavors of choriço (Portugese sausage)? If not available, what would be the best substitute?
Chouriço is a dry sausage similar to the Spanish chorizo, it is heavily spiced with garlic and paprika. If you cannot find it, you can substitute with fresh chorizo or Mexican chorizo (although they are not exactly the same), or even a domestic smoked hot sausage.
The dish is traditionally served with farofa -- what kind of flour is needed and why?
Farofa is made with manioc meal – also known as cassava or yucca. The meal is toasted in a skillet, usually with palm oil, and serves as an additional starch component to help extend this rich dish.
In the recipe you mention mashing 1/4 of the cooked beans. What does this do to the overall stew?
This is a trick that New Orleans cooks do with their red beans, too. By mashing some of the beans, the released starch makes the dish thick and smooth.
Is there a Brazilian drink that would best accompany this dish?
Some folks say that a feijoada is not complete without a “batida”. Batida is the name given to a drink made with cachaça, a Brazilian spirit similar to rum made with sugar cane juice. The simplest batida would also contain lemon juice and a bit of sugar, although there are many variations of the batida throughout Brazil.
Feijoada (Brazilian Black Beans)
Yield 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound choriço sausage, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 pound carne seca or other salted cured beef, soaked overnight and cubed
1 pound baby back spareribs, cut into individual ribs
1 pound black beans
10 cups water
4 cups collared or kale greens, sauteed in olive oil
4 cups cooked white rice
Brazilian hot sauce
In a large heavy-bottom saucepan, over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic. Crush the bay leaves and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes. Add the sausage. Continue to cook for 4 minutes. Add the cubed beef, ribs, beans and water. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Adding water as necessary to keep the beans covered. Using the back of a ladle, mash 1/4 of the beans. Reseason with salt and pepper if needed.
To serve, spoon some of the greens and rice onto each serving plate. Spoon the Feijoada over the rice. Shake some of the hot sauce over the entire plate. Garnish with the orange slices and farofa.
Yield 2 ½ cups
3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups manioc flour
In a large saute pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour. Season with salt. Saute until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.