Meet Evelin. (Pronounced ‘Eva-leeen.’)
She wanted me to show you what she looked like “normally,” right away. Because, as you’ll see, she looked pretty unusual the day she came over and cooked a full Brazilian meal in my tiny kitchen. Make that 2 days. Actually, the whole event spanned 3 days. More on that in a bit.
Evelin is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She’s been living with our mutual friend Ana Paula here in Boston for the past month taking English classes and visiting our inferior beaches (my words, not hers!). Anyway, during one of our adventures, maybe it was after suffering through “Sex and the City 2“, we came up with the idea of cooking “a real Brazilian meal” together. I would take notes and pictures, and she would do everything else. It turned out I was also on fan duty.
This was to happen on a Sunday afternoon. At my house. “Sure, no problem!” (I’ve picked up this phrase from Evelin).
Ana Paula and Evelin arrive in a Zipcar Saturday evening laden with groceries from the Brazilian market and a pressure cooker. I hustle the bags upstairs and stuff my fridge with more meat than I have seen in six months. I set my alarm in order to soak the beans by 8:00 a.m. on Sunday so that they will be ready to cook midday. Sure, no problem!
Sunday afternoon Ana Paula and Evelin arrive straight from church. And this is where I get to show you Evelin’s cooking get-up.
Yes. That’s right. The woman is wearing a strapless, floor-length sundress and a shower cap. Evelin, being the practical person that she is, explains the cap is to protect her hair “from the smell.” Huh? Sure enough, as “we” get cooking the beef, two kinds of sausage, salty pork, and bacon in olive oil and butter, my tiny apartment gets a bit … pungent.
This is when I go on fan duty, trying to blow the steam/smell/grease out through the deck door before the smoke alarm sounds and the building will have to evacuate and call off the fire department (thankfully, that didn’t happen).
Oh, what is it we are preparing? Feijoada, or black bean stew.
Feijoada, as Evelin explains with help from Ana Paula, is a dish that was created by Brazil’s slaves (who were emancipated in 1888). Rice and beans were their staple foods, and they would add whatever leftover meat (“the ears, the tail”) they could find to the pot. Well, it smelled so good and tasted so savory that as the former slaves infiltrated Brazil’s free communities, the dish was widely and enthusiastically adopted by all classes. Today, feijoada is on the menu of every São Paulo restaurant on causal Friday, gobbled up by executives taking their long lunches.
Here, Ana Paula serves as translator.
We cook the beans and the meat and then let it rest while we eat a simple lunch of rice, sausage, and onion and a green salad with dill dressing. We chase that down with Giovanna‘s mango sorbet (they are local!), blueberries, and squares of dark Taza chocolate (also local!).
Delicious! Are we done now?
Evelin meets me after work and we journey home on the T together to get the job done. We’ve invited Rebecca to join us to eat this enormous pot of beans and meat that has been resting in my fridge overnight. Back goes on the shower cap, the apron, and … the fans.
We make the farofa with – get this – butter from a can. Even Ana Paula, who grew up in Rio, says she has never seen this before.
I made the picture nice and big so you could see it. It was sooo rich! It tastes almost like cheese. The brand name, I was told, means “Aviation.” This is totally lost on me, why a butter/cheese company sees itself as an aviator. But look, the plane is flying over a tiny cow. Yes. That explains it.
Anyway. Here is the feijoada and the farofa happily cooking together (I wish I could insert an audio file here so you could hear the exhaust fan, the ceiling fan, the standing fan, the air purifier, and the air conditioning all running at once in the background as the meat sizzles and the beans bubble.)
Joking aside, it smells amazing. Three days and five minutes after we started, Rebecca arrives and sits down to eat. In fact, we all do. Finally.
We are exhausted and triumphant. And we have Brazilian soda.
Evelin, apron and shower cap now put away, raises her glass for a “Tim-Tim” (pronounced “ching-ching”). A Brazilian toast. We toast good friendship and good food and good shower caps.
“However, there is one ingredient that you did not see,” says Evelin as she leans back in her chair. Really? I thought I had paid good attention. “That ingredient,” she says with a pause, “is love.”
Of course it is.
And if you want leftovers, come on over. I have plenty to share.
3/4 of 1 kg bag of black beans
10 ounce roll of paio (smoked sausage), chopped
1 bag mixed pork pieces (bacon, sausage, salty pork)
1 bag salted beef, chopped
3 or 4 bay leaves
3/4 cup garlic, chopped (about 12-16 cloves)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Soak the beans in a bowl of water for 3-4 hours. When the beans are ready, drain, and pour them into a pressure cooker. Rinse off the mixed pork pieces, saving aside some of the bacon to cook with the farofa (recipe below). Slice the roll of paio in half, pull off the skin, and chop into bit-sized chunks (the sausage gives the stew its special taste). Add to the beans in the pressure cooker.
Chop the salted beef into 1-1/2 inch squares (if the pieces of beef are too small, they will fall apart as they cook). Heat a big pot of water. As the water gets hot, add the beef and the remaining mixed pork to the pot, bring to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes (this is in order to boil off the salt). Drain and add the boiled meat to the pressure cooker and cook for 30 or 40 minutes over medium high heat. Transfer to a large pot, add bay leaves, and simmer over medium-high heat to thicken the sauce, “until it looks like chocolate sauce.”
As the beans simmer, brown the chopped garlic in the olive oil until it caramelizes, add to the meat and bean stew. Take some of the liquid from the stew and pour it to the now empty garlic pan. Scrap off caramelized garlic remains from pan to capture flavor, and add liquid back to the stew pot.
1/2 lb. (8 ounces) calabresa (cured pork sausage), chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 200 g can of Aviacao butter
35 ounce bag of Toasted Manioc Flour (yucca flour)
1 teaspoon salt
4 oranges, peeled and quartered
Chop the calabresa into small pieces. Chop the reserved bacon into tiny pieces, combine with chopped sausage in a pot. Fry sausage, bacon, onion together in half of the butter over medium heat until the onion browns (butter helps to keep the meat from drying out and to retain its flavor). Add egg (if you want, you can add an apple or banana to the mixture). Stir in half of the bag of yucca flour and stir in salt. Add more butter, to taste. Mix thoroughly.
Cover and remove from heat.
2 cups dry rice
4 cups water
1/2 large onion
1 tablespoon cooking oil (canola, olive, or corn)
Add rice and water in a large pot, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes (or follow instructions on rice package). Fry onion in oil, add to rice.
Spoon feijoada over rice, spoon farofa on side. Serve with peeled oranges. Enjoy!
Serves a small village.