Who is excited about the Olympics? Anyone? I am disproportionately excited this year. I LOVE the Olympics. Winter and Summer. I love the worldwide competition. I love seeing people from tiny countries competing. I love getting to watch unusual sports like synchronized swimming and badminton, sports that the USA doesn’t dominate. I love to keep track of the medal counts. I love to watch the swimming and volleyball. It is really the best. I will probably get about nothing done for the next couple weeks and I CAN’T WAIT!!!
But this year is even better because the games are in Rio de Janeiro! I joke that I’ve been to two placed in my life. Washington D.C. and Brazil. My husband lived in Rio for two years and he is really excited about these games. We went on vacation to Brazil to visit some of the places he lived. We are both excited to see some familiar places. Copcabana beach? Yes! Guanabara Bay? (Kinda gross, but) Yes! Sugar Loaf? Yes! Corcovado? Yes!
We are going to have a killer menu to go along with the Opening Ceremonies this Friday. It will include such Brazilian staples as Pao De Queijo, Brazilian Lemonade, and Gurana (a Brazilian soda.) But If you wanna have a Brazilian party, then you need to serve Feijoada. It is the national dish of Brazil, after all. Supposedly it comes from Brazilian slave culture. Where the left over bits and pieces of pigs were stewed with the ubiquitous beans.
Did you know that in many parts of Brazil the brown or red bean is the bean of choice, but in Rio, it is the black bean. They are eaten at many meals. But feijoada is special. It is weekend food. It is a labor of love. It needs lots of time so simmer and stew.
It is best to cook it in a pressure cooker, but it you don’t have one, you can just use your stovetop. It will take longer and the beans probably won’t be quite as creamy, but it isn’t a deal breaker.
The thing that sets feijoada apart is the meat. Traditionally, salted and cured pigs parts were used. Most people I know, including myself, don’t fancy a pig’s ear hanging out in their stew. Plus, it’s actually kinda hard to find pigs ears. I went to four grocery stores trying to find a good selection of salted or cured meats. Here is what I was able to find in my vanilla, non-culturally rich grocery stores.
Bacon- Easy peasy, find it anywhere. You want a thicker cut hopefully a smoked variety
Salt Pork- I found this at a couple of the grocery stores. It looks like a slab of bacon that hasn’t been cut, but apparently it is way saltier. Rinse it before using
Chorizo- I found a lot of fresh, bulk chorizo. But finding a sausage version was a bit trickier. If you can’t find chorizo, use a kielbasa or smoked sausage
Dried Beef- I had no luck finding carne seca, so I used dried beef. It was found by the canned chicken and such. It also should be rinsed. (I’m just gonna be honest here. I didn’t love the dried beef so much in the finished product.)
Ham hocks- all the stores I looked at, had these. Also called ham shanks.
If you can’t find any one of these, don’t fret. Just try to get a variety of smokey, salty pork products. Fresh pork loin or country style boneless ribs would be an awesome addition or substitution. They should total about 2 pounds of meat.
First you need to soak your beans in lots of water. Overnight is ideal. It’s also good to change the water once if you can.
The next day begin by browning your meat in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Don’t brown the dried products, just the bacon and salt pork and shanks (and any fresh products you are using.) Once it is browned, remove it from the pan and clean out all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat.
Add the peppers and onions to the fat. You wanna scrape up all the brown bits left over from browning from the meat. Once these have softened for a few minutes…
you can add your drained beans, tomatoes (which is a non-standard ingredient, but I like the acid and richness it gives), about 6 cups of water, garlic and the bay leaves. Oh yea, and all the meats! Add those too.
An important note. Do not add salt at this time. It is best to wait until it is all cooked to see if if needs additional salt. It probably won’t need any extra salt if you have used salted pork products.
Put the lid on the pressure cooker and bring it up to pressure (use your manufacturer’s instructions to accomplish this.) Then just let is simmer and stew. You need at least a couple of hours in the pressure cooker.
If you are using a regular pot, you will need to simmer for more like 8 hours, adding water to cover the beans at all times.
When it is done cooking, release the pressure from the pressure cooker and open the lid carefully. Fish out the bones from the ham shank and try to find the bay leaves. If you want a creamier or thicker stew, then remove about a cup of the beans and mash them. Then add them back to the body of the stew.
Traditionally it is served over steamed white rice and farofa or farinha is served on top. Farinha is basically coarse ground tapioca flour that has been toasted. It is an acquired taste for many, since it kinda tastes like you are eating sand. But it does give an interesting texture. You can purchase farinha online, or wait til tomorrow and I’ll give you a sneaky trick for farinha.
I can’t wait for the games and the Brazilian celebration to begin!