Monday, March 31, 2008

Feijoada: The Illustrated Recipe

Here we have ingredients necessary to start the black beans cooking (with the notable exception of the beans themselves), from left to right:
  • 4 oz (4 slices) of bacon, minced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves garlic pressed (or minced)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Not pictured, but needed:
  • 10 cups of water
  • 2lbs of black beans, rinsed and picked through
I have a hell of a time mincing bacon with a knife, so actually use our kitchen shears to do the job. Stack the 4 slices on top of each other and then cut thin strips widthwise with the shears, and then come back to the strips and cut them into little squares. For mincing onion, I do (or try anyway) this technique, which I first saw in Julia Childs' cookbook. It's incredibly effective even for someone who sucks with a knife, like myself, though it can be time consuming at first.

Note that you'll need a large pot for this recipe, because you need room to fit all the meat in with the beans. The recipe from Cooks called for a 12 quart stockpot, but that may be a bit overkill as I still had lots of vertical space... but then I can't be sure it would have fit in my rather mammoth 6.75 quart Le Crueset pot, though I imagine it would have, but better safe than sorry.
  1. Cook the bacon in a the stockpot over medium heat until partly rendered and light brown ( 4-5 minutes).
  2. Add the onion and cook until softened (5-7 minutes).
  3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).
  4. Stir in 10 cups of water, beans, bay leaves, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook (with occasional stirring) for 1 hour.
During the hour of the beans cooking on their own, there is no rest for the weary, as it is time to prepare and brown the MEAT.
Pictured above is... half a pig it seems, but in actuality:
  • 2 pounds of pork tenderloin (about 2 small), trimmed and cut in half widthwise
  • 2 racks of baby back ribs(2.5 to 3 lbs each), with each rack cut into 2 pieces
  • 1lb linguiƧa sausage cut into 6 inch lengths
Not pictured, but needed:
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
The recipe actually called for cutting each rack of ribs into 3 pieces (so 2 ribs per piece), but I misread it and only did two pieces of 3 ribs per piece. The reasoning behind using smaller sections is so that they are easier to maneuver in the pot with the beans to make sure that they stay submerged, however I didn't have too much trouble with the bigger pieces. If you want to do the smaller pieces then do them in 3 batches of two and use another tablespoon of oil with the extra batch.

Basically, this next section is for browning the meat so they have a nice color and flavor and using the juices to help flavor the beans. Thus we brown in sections and deglaze the pan in between with water and add that to the cooking beans. Here we go:
  1. Pat tenderloin and ribs pieces dry with paper towels and then season liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat until just smoking
  3. Brown tenderloin on all sides (2-2.5 minutes per side, i.e. 8-10 minutes), reducing heat if it looks like the pan is beginning to scorch
  4. Transfer the tenderloin pieces to a plate and set aside.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of the water to the pan, reduce heat to low, scrape up all the browned bits, and then pour all of this into the simmering beans.
  6. Wipe dry the skillet with a paper towel.
  7. Return pan to medium high heat and heat another tablespoon of oil until just smoking
  8. Brown 2 sections of ribs for 5 minutes on the meat side only, reducing the heat if the pan begins to scorch.
  9. Transfer the ribs to the plate, and repeat with the remain two rib sections and another tablespoon of oil.
  10. After the ribs are browned, add the remaining 1/4 cup of water, reduce heat to low, scrape up all the browned bits, and then pour the liquid into the simmering beans.
Some comments before we get to cooking the meat in the beans. As you can see in the picture above, 4 pieces of tenderloin made my skillet quite crowded, and hindered the browning a bit... it didn't really make any difference in the end, but it meant I had two leave the two pieces that weren't really browning as well in the pan after I had removed the other two. If you start the meat soon after you set the beans to simmering, I think you'd have time to brown the tenderloin in two batches that would turn out a bit better.

As I mentioned above, I used 2 three rib pieces instead of the 3 two rib sections and it worked out fine. They fit in the pan easily and browned very well... in fact, I am a little bit surprised that the recipe called for 3 batches of ribs while only wanting one batch of tenderloin. If I do this recipe again (maybe at a friend's house for a summer BBQ?) I would brown both the tenderloin and the ribs in two batches, but I'd cut the ribs into two rib sections instead of three.

OK, on to the beans:
In this last 40 minutes or so of cooking, there isn't anything to do except monitor the pot, so this is when I made my Brazilian salsa (molho apimentado - which I will describe in another post) and the white rice for accompaniment - the timing was just about perfect.

  1. After the beans have been cooking for 60 minutes, place the sausage pieces and browned rib sections in the beans and submerge them as much as possible with a spoon or tongs. It's OK if they peak out a little bit, but you want them down in there as much as possible.
  2. Continue cooking on low, covered, for 20 minutes before giving them BIG, thorough, stir.
  3. Keep cooking until the beans are soft, about another 20 minutes.
  4. Gently lay the tenderloin pieces on top of the beans (they can sink in a bit) like so:
  5. Cook until the centers of the tenderloin pieces register 145 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 20-30 minutes (mine took about 40 minutes).
  6. With tongs transfer all of the meat(i.e. ribs, tenderloin, and sausage) to a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil.
  7. Remove 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid and reserve.
  8. Remove 2 cups of beans and another 1/2 cup of the bean cooking liquid.
  9. Using a hand mixer, potato masher, or fork, mash the 2 cups of beans and 1/2 cup of liquid until smooth and then return to the pot.
  10. Use the reserved bean cooking liquid to adjust the consistency: "loose but not soupy".
  11. Slice the pork tenderloin into 1/2 inch thick slices, the linguiƧa sausage into 3/4 inch sections, and slice between each rib for single rib pieces.

And there you have it. Serve the meat with the beans, rice, salsa (recipe forthcoming), and orange slices.