Brazil’s cuisine is an amalgam of indigenous, European and African influences. South America’s largest country, like many oof its European counterparts (far smaller in size!) has fully developed regional cuisines. Waves of immigrants brought some of their typical dishes, replacing missing ingredients with local equivalents.
Europeans (primarily from Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland and Switzerland), accustomed to a wheat-based diet, introduced wine, leaf vegetables, and dairy products. African slaves also had a major role in developing Brazilian cuisine, especially in the coastal states. The foreign influence extended to later migratory waves – Japanese immigrants brought most of the food items that Brazilians would associate with Asian cuisine today, and introduced large-scale aviaries, well into the 20th century.
Ingredients first used by native peoples in Brazil include root vegetables and fruits hardly found outside of Brazil’s continental mass. Root vegetables such as cassava (locally known as mandioca, aipim or macaxeira, among other names), yams, and fruit like açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, guava, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, and hog plum are some of the most popular ingredients.
One of the few dishes found throughout all of Brazil’s regions, though in many variations, is made with various cuts of meat (from a non-kosher animal!) and black beans. It has become the country’s national dish, aromatic and hearty! At the request of an old friend, I’m posting a kosher version of it:
Feijoada – Brazilian Black Bean and Meat Stew
(adapted from various sources; the photos – above and below – also came from around the web)
- 1 1/2 cups dry black beans, rinsed and sorted
- 1 lb corned beef
- 1 1/2 lb boneless beef chuck
- 1 1/2 lb spareribs
- 10 to 12 cups low sodium or homemade chicken broth* or water
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp peanut or olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups minced onion
- 12 oz Jack’s Gourmet Beef Kielbasa
- 12 oz Jack’s Gourmet Spicy Mexican Style Chorizo Sausage
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, cut on the diagonal
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
- Salt as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper as needed
- Soak the black beans in enough cold water to cover generously for at least 6 and up to 12 hours in the refrigerator. In a separate container, soak the corned beef in the refrigerator overnight in enough cold water to cover.
- Drain the corned beef and place it in large Dutch oven along with the beef chuck, and spare ribs. Add enough broth or water to cover the meats. Add the bay leaf, cover the Dutch oven, and bring the broth to a simmer over low heat, skimming as necessary. Simmer until the meats are all tender, removing them from the broth as they become fork-tender (20 to 30 minutes for the spareribs, 45 minutes to an hour for the others), and transfer them to a bowl. When all of the meat has been removed from the Dutch oven, strain the broth. (You can cool the meats and broth now and continue the cooking the next day.)
- Drain the soaked beans and rinse well. Place them in the Dutch oven and add enough of the strained broth to cover the beans. Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat and then immediately reduce the heat for a slow simmer, skimming as necessary, until the beans are tender and creamy to the bite, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Season to taste with salt. Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid separately.
- Heat the oil the Dutch oven over medium heat until it shimmers. Sauté the onion in the oil, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the kielbasa, chorizo, garlic, scallions, and jalapeño; sauté, stirring frequently, until very hot and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Return the drained beans to the Dutch oven along with enough of the strained liquid from the beans to make a good, stew-like consistency. Simmer until the feijoada is very flavorful, 10 to 15 minutes. Lightly mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon to thicken the sauce, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Slice the corned beef, beef, and kielbasa and chorizo sausages; separate the chuck and spareribs into portions. Add them to the beans and continue to simmer until the feijoada is very flavorful and thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve with rice.
Yields about 6 cups
- 2-1/2 pounds chicken pieces with bones
- 1 large carrot, cut into chunks
- 2 medium sized onions, quartered
- 2 celery ribs with leaves, cut into chunks
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon crushed, dried rosemary,
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 quarts cold water
- Put all ingredients in a soup pot. Bring to a boil slowly, then reduce heat. Skim foam. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours.
- Set chicken aside until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones. Discard bones; save meat for later uses. Strain broth, discard vegetables and seasonings. Refrigerate overnight. Skim fat from surface.
Brazilians usually have this dish at noontime (that’s the big family meal throughout South America), accompanied by a caipirinha and followed by a nap. I have it at dinner time (when I feel ambitious enough to make it, it only happened… twice!) and accompany it with a nice Merlot. It’s not a dish you’ll make often – its preparation takes too long – BUT, when you do, your taste buds will be forever grateful.
Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!