Black beans seem simple enough to prepare, right?
That’s the thought of frustration that has run through my mind over the years as I have struggled to come up with a satisfactory recipe for this straightforward ingredient. I’d had various renditions of black bean soup at a number of restaurants, so I knew it was possible to make them taste delicious, yet every time I tried, I was disappointed with the results. The beans were too bland, too tough, or just plain boring.
Thankfully, the tide has turned in my quest for black bean goodness, and it has taken the form of Brazilian feijoada. The basic formula for this stew was shared with me by a friend and former coworker of Dan, Paul, who has a passion for Brazilian culture. In fact, he visits there frequently and even recently married a Brazilian woman, so I’d say he is a pretty good authority when it comes to the national cuisine. As he shared the recipe, a light bulb was illuminated in my mind as I realized the missing link in my many black bean experiments.
Diet-oriented American culture tends to shy away from the praise of fat, but indeed that is what had been lacking. The fat of the pork and the Portuguese sausage add richness and flavor that are absolutely essential, yet it isn’t greasy or heavy at all. A simple hearty meal, feijoada is budget friendly and scrumptious. This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd, and while it could be halved with a bit of effort, why not make a huge pot and invite your friends and neighbors over to share in a satisfying Brazilian feast.
- 1 pound dry black beans
- 1 1/2 pounds smoked pork shank (cut into 1-inch rounds) or ham hocks
- 13 ounce package linguica (Portuguese sausage), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 pound beef stew meat
- 2 cups medium diced yellow or white onion
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- Kosher salt to taste
- Traditional sides and garnishes: long grain rice, roughly chopped cilantro, sliced scallions, sautéed collard greens*, orange slices, and a caipirinha, if desired
- Rinse the dry beans, remove any broken pieces and debris, and then place them in a large container and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Allow the beans to soak overnight (a minimum of 8 hours). In the morning, drain the soaking liquid and rinse the beans once more.
- Place the soaked, rinsed beans in the basin of a large slow cooker. Add the smoked pork shank or ham hocks, linguica, stew meat, onions, garlic, and bay leaves, and pour enough water over the ingredients so that they are just covered.
- Allow the stew to cook on low heat for about 8 hours or until the beans are tender and the pork shank meat is falling off the bone. Stir occasionally as it cooks, and add more water if the mixture begins to look dry.
- Once the beans are fully cooked, season to taste with kosher salt. Discard the bay leaf and the bones from the pork shank/ham hocks. Spoon the stew over long grain white rice, top with cilantro and scallions, and serve with sautéed collard greens*, orange slices, and a Caipirinha, if desired.
- *To prepare the collard greens, gently rinse the leaves with cold water and dry with a paper towel. Remove the hearty stems, stack the leaves on top of one another, and roll them up tightly into a cigar shape. Then, using a sharp knife, cut the roll into ¼ inch strips, creating a chiffonade. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil into a large skillet that has been heated over medium high heat, add the collard greens and a bit of salt and pepper, and sauté until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes.
Tips and Tidbits
- Linguica is an ingredient that I’ve only recently learned about, so it may be new to you as well. Many mainstream grocery stores keep it stocked, but if you have a hard time finding it, Mexican chorizo can be substituted in, though the final result will be a bit spicier.
- In Brazil, this dish would traditionally be enjoyed with a caipirinha, the country’s national cocktail. The beverage is a bit strong for me, especially since I am in a season of breastfeeding at the moment, but check out the recipe here if you want to give it a try!
- If you prefer to cook the feijoada on the stovetop, follow the directions as written, except add all of the ingredients to a large pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, until the beans are tender and the pork is falling off the bone, about 2-3 hours. Stir the beans occasionally, adding more water as needed to keep the stew from becoming too dry.