When Good Food Goes Bad Part IV: Black Beans
Feijoada (pronounced "fayj-wada") is Brazil's national dish. Although it's simple enough to be eaten on a daily basis, feijoada is often prepared in huge batches for big parties. It's basically a big, salty, tasty pot of black beans cooked with smoked meats and herbs, served over rice with a side of collard greens and sliced oranges.
And it is one of the most delicious meals that I can think of.
You can try feijoada if you are lucky enough to have a Brazilian restaurant in your area. Unfortunately, many Brazilian restaurants treat feijoada like it's a very fine dish and charge exorbitant prices for it. My local Brazilian haunt, for instance, charges $40 for a two-person serving - for a dish that costs next to nothing to make!
There's a fairly big controversy as to how feijoada originated. A lot of people think it's a very "common" food, owing to the fact that the least choice pieces of meat are used (feet, ears, tails, hamhocks) to flavor the food. Others claim that the food was a variation of a Portuguese delicacy that was, in fact, enjoyed by the upper class Brazilian population, but modified by their servants. There are a lot of class arguments involved, but my main interest in the dish is that it's yummy and cheap.
I found a great recipe in my favorite foodie magazine, Saveur, and tried it out at home (the recipe is not found on the website, unfortunately). To my delight, it was better than the stuff that my local place makes. Not only that, but I was able to use up many bags of black beans just as they were getting a TAD too stale. Now, feijoada takes a long time to cook, but the results last for DAYS.
There are many, many different variations of feijoada recipes. I'm posting some of them here, but my basic recipe is this:
Chop 2 onions and 6 cloves of garlic. Sautee in a large pot with some vegetable oil until soft. Rinse a bag of black beans and toss them in the pot with as much water as is recommended (I start with 6 cups and add more if needed). Add a bunch of salted meats (traditional meats include salted hamhocks, linguica or kielbasa sausage, and maybe a pig foot). Throw in a couple of bay leaves. Cook for about four hours. Add water and adjust heat as needed. Once it's a big, starchy mess, put it in a pretty bowl and serve over rice.
There are even vegetarian versions of feijoada, but honestly, I think you can simply replace the meat with some Boca products, toss in a little liquid smoke, and you're golden.
Feijoada is served with collard greens that are sliced confetti-thin and sliced oranges. I also like to top mine with a mouth-burning hot sauce. In Brazil, feijoada is also accompanied by a capirinha or two, but it's good sober, as well.