My old Brazilian nanny, feeling displaced and perpetually homesick (Brazilians call it saudade), would only crack a smile when I made Brazil's national dish feijoada, which, for the sake of my family's happiness, turned out to be a weekly occurrence. It's a hearty stew made with black beans, pork shoulder, carne seca (dried beef like beef jerky), linguiça calabresa (a pork sausage like kielbasa) and hunks of slab bacon. It's quite a project—one that I reserve for the weekend. But saudade doesn't differentiate between weekday and weekend, so I found myself making a fast version using canned beans, kielbasa and roasted pork from my local Dominican restaurant. It was good enough to stanch my nanny's longing, but I began to get saudade for the real thing, so here it is:
Traditional feijoada calls for carne seca—dried beef-which is hard to find outside of Brazilian neighborhoods. I like to use serrano ham, prosciutto or bresaola (Italian air-dried beef) because it most closely approximates carne seca's slightly gamey, meaty flavor.
ACTIVE: 20 MIN TOTAL: 2 HR 20 MIN
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds slab bacon, cut into 3 pieces
1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños or serrano chiles, whole
1 pound dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
1/2 pound serrano ham, in one piece, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
1 pound andouille sausage or kielbasa, cut into 2-inch pieces
Steamed rice for serving
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the bacon and cook over high heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crusty, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion, garlic and chiles to the pot and cook over low heat until barely softened, 5 minutes. Add the beans and 8 cups of water. Return the bacon to the pot along with the serrano ham, nestling them into the beans. Add the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the beans are nearly tender, 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add the sausage and cook uncovered, until the meat and beans are tender and the liquid is slightly thickened, 30 minutes. Discard the chiles, bay leaf and thyme sprig and serve with rice.
make ahead The feijoada can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for 1 month.