Hello, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophe, the only remaining records of the madman and inveterate invertebrate inveigler Jon O’Guin. Today, I’m striving to make a more impressive Brazilian dish, since my last ones were met with a resounding “meh”. First, though, I’d like to shamelessly plug my own actions, and offer a brief apology: I ended last note with a claim that I would be cooking in a cabin today. That ended up not being true, because of a scheduling error meaning I had to move out of the cabin for a few days. Next time. Probably. Unless something else goes monstrously wrong. Why am I in cabins in the first place? Part of the deal with the play I’m doing at the end of August. So, assuming I haven’t harassed you enough about this: COME SEE MY PLAY. Or don’t. No pressure. Especially if it’s currently after August 28th, 2016, in which case you can’t. Without a time machine.
Anywho, today we’re cooking a dish called “feijoada”, which, while coming from the Portuguese for bean, “feijao”, looks like Feo Hijo, which is Spanish for “Ugly Kid.” Which makes today’s title the first Tri-Lingual reference in Kitchen Catastrophe history! We’ve made plenty of bi-lingual jokes, but this is the first time you needed three to get the payoff. Don’t expect a quad-lingual one. I can barely swing a quadruple entendre. Especially since it gained weight.
So let’s cut through the lingual labyrinth I’ve trapped myself in like a bullheaded dick, and get right to the recipe. Except of course I’m not going to do that. Because nothing is ever as simple as I make it sound.
Now, I’m not saying that I made the last two recipes perfectly, and therefore it’s Brazil’s fault that they weren’t stellar. For one thing, I openly admit to at least 2 major missteps in the pao de queijo. But, honestly, I should have expected it. There wasn’t a ton of ‘pop’,so to speak. The recipes fell into the blind spot created by ‘Sexy Food Syndrome’: cheese biscuits and roast beef sandwiches aren’t particularly sexy.
So instead, let’s talk about something that is sexy, in a less flashy way: soup. Soup is something that basically everyone has a connection with. It’s been with mankind since practically the Stone Age. And more so, I’m almost willing to bet you have a SPECIFIC soup that’s near and dear to you. Maybe it was made by your mother, your father, your grandparent, someone. Soup is infinitely customizable, and thus it connects to each person a different way. This is an argument for its comfort level, sure, but what makes it sexy? That exact level of comfort. Something like, say, Lobster Thermidor is the sexy of an intriguing woman in a slinky black dress at a cocktail party. A Ghost Pepper Hot Wing is Harley Quinn sexy: a pulse-pounding challenge that you know is going to hurt forever. But Soup. Soup is 4th anniversary sexy. Where you can sit down, have a glass of wine, and not worry about impressing anyone or trying to be something you’re not. Where you know all the moves, but you’re still willing to try something new if the situation calls for it.
Behold the pot of love. Love, and mystery.
I bring all of this up because feijoada is basically the chicken noodle soup or grandma’s meatloaf of Brazil: something every Brazilian has had, likely in a dozen different ways. And let me tell you, it’s got something that immediately caught my eye: a metric shit-ton of pork.
The recipes I found suggested pork shoulder, pork tenderloin, chorizo, pork ribs, pig’s feet, pig’s ears, diced pig’s tail, it was a practical catalog of cuts. And, to be clear, these weren’t individual recommendations. Like, most of them recommended bacon, pork shoulder, chorizo AND something else. Actual Brazilians swore by the gelatin and flavor that trotters and pig’s tail would add, but sadly, I couldn’t find either in my local markets. So I had to content myself with a more frugal set of options
Pictured: Jon’s understanding of restraint.
Now, in the interest of honestly, all of that doesn’t go in the stew. While you do use 1+ pounds of pork shoulder, you only need 2 chorizo, and 1/5th a pound of bacon. Practically vegan.
Take it to Brown Town
Now, I’m not going to sit here and claim that this is complex recipe. The basic formula is “add shit and wait.” First, you soak dried beans overnight, then drain them. Or don’t. Seriously, one of the recipes I read made it a point that you DON’T rinse the beans, or change their water. While I was interested at this avant garde style, I decided to leave it for a later day. Next, you toss bacon in a hot pot, and fry. Then you fry the chorizo in the bacon fat. Then you fry the SHOULDER in the fat. Just pig on pig on pig flavor. And let me tell you what that gets you: Fond.
It may also be a map of the moon. Science is unclear.
Fond, as I know I’ve explained before, but can never be discussed too much, is the brown residue left by meats on cooking surfaces, and is basically the core of flavor building in many sauces, roasts, liquid dishes. It’s basically left over flavor from the food (seriously, it’s packets of protein, carbohydrates and sugars left over from maillard reactions.) So this dish builds a motherload of it in the bottom of the pan, and then uses nature’s fond sponge: the onion. Onions are, personally, my favorite deglazing tool, since they work as extra little sponges to sop up the sauce they create themselves.
This is the same pan 90 seconds later. Note the lack of fond, and the new brown sauce. Onions: Nature’s scrubbing bubbles.
Then you just toss everything in the pot, get bubbling, toss a lid on, and wait. And wait. Just keep waiting. Jesus Christ, how long must a man wait for food?
Eventually, the glaciers complete their majestic stride across the land, and your meal is done. (It’s actually only like, 2 hours, so it’s not that bad unless you, like me, were forced to start cooking at 10:30 pm, and hadn’t had solid food since 1.) The traditional toppings for the dish are orange slices, parsley and cilantro, and hot sauce to taste.
I lost my orange somewhere. Probably THE GARBAGE.
How is it? In my personal opinion: it’s alright. Tragically, I wouldn’t call it much to write home about. Don’t get me wrong, the pork is super tender, and it makes a filling dish mixed in with rice, but both of my ever-traitorous companions had complaints. Joe thought it was basically tasteless without hot sauce added, and that I had somehow magically made HIS rice cooker overcook the rice. JJ felt the beans were just a touch undercooked. Personally, I’d recommend making the following changes: Take the lid off after the first hour, since our cooking liquid was still very much, well, liquid. I’d also consider adding something to thicken it, like cornstarch, or a flavor-adding gelatin source, like ham hocks or trotters. I’d aslo consider using the whole pound of chorizo, instead of the ½ we used. In the end, our version was underwhelming. But that’s part of the journey to that 4th anniversary level of sexiness: you gotta take a couple lackluster steps before you get to the sweet spot. (In Bed)
NEXT TIME: JON’S GOING TO TALK ABOUT TEA, BECAUSE HE FORGOT TO DO SO AFTER MAKING THE TEA POST, AND HAS TO MOVE AGAIN TODAY.
Serves… a lot. Like, I’m betting at least 6-8 bowls of the stuff.
1 lb dried black beans
2 lbs pork shoulder
¼ lb thick- cut bacon, cut into slices
1 pound chorizo.
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Orange, parsley, cilantro, white rice and hot sauce, for serving.
- Go through your beans and throw out any bad ones. Then, soak them in water for at least 6 hours. ( I left mine for almost 24)
- IF you really want to minimize dishes, drain the beans into a colander, and wash out their pot to cook in, or just use a second pot. Heat the pot over medium, and then fry the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon, leaving the fat behind, and then, working in batches, brown the chorizo and pork shoulder in the bacon fat, adding salt and pepper to each batch. Set meat aside after browning.
- Add onion, garlic, and pepper flakes to pot, and scrape up fond, frying until soft, 5-8 minutes.
- Return meat to pot, add beans, vinegar, bay leaves, and enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for 2 hours.
- Serve over white rice, topped with parsley, cilantro, orange juice, and hot sauce.