I don’t think any culinary visit to Brazil would be complete without feijoada, the national dish. It’s pretty much infinitely adaptable… it seems as though every recipe out there calls for different cuts of meat and just about anything goes. Beef? Yep. Pork ribs? Why not? Chorizo? Bacon? Salt Pork? Check, check, and check. After a long, slow simmer they all combine to create comfort food amazingness. Top with some crumbly butter farofa (toasted manioc/tapioca flour) and you’re good to go.
A lot of recipes seemed to call for carne seca and Spanish chorizo sausage (in addition to other cuts of pork and beef). I couldn’t find them so I threw in pork ribs, beef stew meat, and some soft Mexican chorizo and it turned out just fine. Actually, more than fine.
* 2 lbs dried black beans
* 1/2 lb. salt pork, chopped fine (slightly freezing the salt pork will make it easier to chop)
* 1/2 lb. bacon, chopped fine (ditto on the freezing)
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 serrano pepper, quartered
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 lb pork ribs, separated into individual ribs
* 1 lb beef stew meat, cut into cubes
* 1/2 pounds of Mexican chorizo
Cover and soak the beans overnight in a large bowl in the refrigerator.
When ready to start cooking, place the salt pork and bacon in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Render out the fat and when the salt pork and bacon are crispy, remove the meat from the pot but reserve on the side.
In batches brown the ribs in the pork fat and remove to a plate. Brown the beef stew meat and remove to a plate. Place the chorizo in the pot along with the onion, garlic, peppers and saute until the vegetables have softened.
Drain the beans and add to the pot along with the browned salt pork, bacon, pork ribs and beef. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally. Skim any foam from the top and add water, if necessary, to keep all the ingredients covered.
When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender (~2-3 hours), remove the pork ribs using tongs. Discard the bones and fat and return the meat to the pot.
Season with salt and pepper, and top with farofa (recipe follows). Feijoada is traditonally served with a side of sauteed collard greens (although I preferred Swiss Chard sauteed in a little olive oil with onion and garlic) and orange slices.
Farofa is simply toasted manioc/tapioca flour. There are countless versions out there but I kept it simple, toasting the flour in butter only. The result is pleasantly crunchy contrast to the creamy beans and tender meat of the feijoada. Sort of reminded me of a more substantial - and much crunchier- crushed Ritz cracker. And I mean that in a good way. There will definitely be more farofa in my future... I imagine it'll be a great topping for all sorts of stews and casseroles.
* 1/2 cup (1 stick/8 TB) butter
* 2 cup manioc/tapioca flour (NOT tapioca starch)
Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the manioc flour and cook, stirring, for several minutes until well mixed and evenly toasted.
* Note: As a guide, I ended up using about 1/4 cup manioc flour per person.