My home country of Brazil is the biggest country in South America, not only in land mass but also in population.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of different cultures have influenced the culinary footprint of Brazil. However, there are two ingredients that can be found in every Brazilian kitchen: beans and rice.
I remember these humble seeds served as daily meals in my childhood. My grandmother would serve them to me in my favorite bowl, which had cartoon bears at the bottom, and would tell me to “find the bears” before I could leave the table. I happily obliged as even the simplest beans, when stewed correctly, are delicious and one of my favorite meals to this day.
When my grandmother had more time on her hands, usually on Saturdays in the winter, she would get a little more ambitious with her beans and make feijoada (fay-ZHWA-dah).
This black bean and pork stew is the perfect meal for frigid Iowa winters and is a source of pride for many Brazilians like myself. This dish represents resilience and creativity in the face of adversity, as many believe it originates with African slaves in the 19th century.
By combining the cheapest of ingredients, like black beans and scraps of meat, they created feijoada, now considered Brazil’s national dish and served in countless low- and high-end restaurants across the country. Although, the best feijoada is always homemade and is served with rice, greens and fresh oranges on the side to balance the salt with some sweet.
If you are like me, this Iowa winter might have you feeling a little “salty” already. I encourage you to balance that salt with some “sweet” and make a delicious feijoada, which is sure to warm your belly and soul.
2 1/2 cups dry black beans
2 bay leaves
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 kielbasa sausage, sliced into medallions
1 rack of pork ribs, cut into quarters
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First, you’ll need to soak your beans in cold water for 4 to 8 hours or overnight. Be sure to look through the beans and pick out any sediment or discolored beans before soaking.
Drain and rinse the beans after soak.
In a large pot, add beans and 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for an initial 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in a skillet with a bit of oil. I like using cast iron but any skillet will do.
Once the onion mixture has a bit of color and is tender, add it to the beans along with your bay leaves. You will continue cooking the beans on medium heat as you add the following ingredients. In the same skillet that you sauteed the onions, sear your kielbasa medallions. Add them to the pot of beans.
Again in the same skillet, salt and sear each side of the ribs for about 2 minutes or until they develop some color on each side. Add them to the pot of beans.
Cover the pot and turn your heat down to a simmer. You’ll have to simmer the feijoada for one more hour, depending on the tenderness of your beans.
Once your beans have reached the desired tenderness, remove the ribs from the pot and set aside. Smash some of your beans to make the broth creamier and thicker consistency. Salt as needed.
Return ribs to the pot.
Serve feijoada over a bed of white rice and with a side of sauteed greens (collard or chard). Don’t forget to slice some fresh oranges and serve them on the side as well.
Source: Alexandra Olsen
Follow Alexandra Olsen on Instagram, @TheHungryGaucha