Friday, May 20, 2011


Location: Eastern South America on the Atlantic Ocean
Area: Over 8.5 million sq km; 5th largest in the world
          Slightly smaller than the US
Borders: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela
           Borders every South American country except Chile and Ecuador
Population: Over 200 million; 5th largest in the world
Capital: Brasilia
GDP: 8th biggest in the world
Airports: Over 4000; 2nd most in the world
Source: CIA World Factbook

If you want to learn more about the economy of Brazil, I highly recommend listening to "The Lie That Saved Brazil" from This American Life.  It not only teaches you about how economics worked there, but how money works worldwide.  Craziness.

Brazil was going to be exciting, and not just because of the mystery ingredient.
Although it helped.
It was because I have not given up on my embassy quest (see The Bahamas).  On the contrary, I e-mail almost every one I can.  Some don't publish their e-mail addresses.  Some bounce.  Most of them just don't answer.  Until Brazil.  They were more than helpful:
Please see the following link:

This is a publication about Brazilian food. I hope that helps you find what you need. We have a lot of traditional foods that do not require fish! For example, the Brazilian national dish is called "Feijoada", and you don't use fish - but you should use a lot of pork. It's basically a stew of black beans and pork (bacon, sausage and pork loin). If you "google" Feijoada, I'm sure you will find many recipes - this one, for exemple:

Most of the products you can find in any store in DC. For the black beans, you can use "Goya" ones, for example.

As far as the meat and other traditional ingredients, many of us from the Embassy go to this store:

They are located in 2700 N. Pershing Drive • Arlington, Virginia 22201. There you can also find "pão-de-queijo", "coxinha" and "rissoles" which are appetizers…you just have to put in the oven.
Wonderful.  There are so many awesome things about this that we need to break it down.  One, there is research.  Two, there is a recommended Brazilian dish.  Not only that, but my international cook book has a recipe for Feijoada.  And finally, a specific store where I can go get the ingredients.

There is even an entire chapter on Feijoada in that research.  It traces the history of the black bean itself, as well as the earliest mentions of the dish.  Contrary to popular belief, it does not seem to have come up through slaves, but popular and well-regarded restaurants.

My actual cooking adventure started with finding all of the ingredients needed.  Someone was selling a smoked ham hock at the Alexandria Farmer's Market, which was a good start.  A trip to Costco yielded the garlic and onions.  The Commissary had some beef, the needed ribs, and the mystery ingredient.  I went all of the way to Arlington (you laugh, but driving on 66 is awful) to try the store they mentioned.  It was very different than the other international grocery store I have gone too.  Much more fresh sausage, and more focused on one area of the world.  It smelled very good.

But I was still missing some ingredients.  Yes, more meat.  How many stores can I reasonably hit for one recipe?

Kevin and I were at Target anyway, so I bought the pork there.  On the way home, we hit my normal international store.  No dice.  There is an Afghan market within walking distance, so I added that one too.  Nada, at least for Brazil.  Harumph.  I have no desire to do this much shopping.

A quick stop to the Giant across from the two international stores (a trifecta?) gives me the Canadian bacon that is listed as an acceptable substitution for carne seca.  We are ready to cook!

But where is the pork?  We scour the freezer and fridge.  We look in the car.  We look in the shopping bags.  No pork.  Apparently we left it at Target?  Pull it together, Danielle - there is enough other meat to make up for it.  This is day until cooking.

On Sunday, after a particularly exciting ND Alumni soccer game, I pull all of the meat out to begin chopping. where are the ribs?  You have got to be kidding me.  After all of that, I am missing two of the ingredients?  Unacceptable.  I need these things to be authentic!  What I really need is a wonderful husband.
Kevin's response:  "I am man, I bring meat.  It used to involve a bow and arrow.  I just used a bicycle and hippies."
That's right, I sent him to Whole Foods, despite his exhaustion from soccer in hot weather.  See, Bill, this is why I keep him around even though he doesn't like feta.

His errands also opened up my schedule a bit.  The cookbook would not just let me get away with making one dish.  It called for sides of both Arroz Blanco (White Rice) and Couve a Mineira (Shredded Kale).  I almost considered drawing out a schedule again, but Kevin's errand made the decisions a little easier.  I would work on the other two first.

The Couve a Mineira was very easy.  I halved the recipe, since it originally called for two pounds of kale alone.  Here is my brief summary:

Trim and rinse the kale
Layer the leaves together and cut them into thin strips.  I found that it helped to also fold them.
Cook some onion and garlic in oil, and then add the kale.
Season with salt and pepper once the kale is softened. 
Again, only half of what was called for.  It was more than one bunch.
After trimming.  I'm glad I had a fairly large collander.
It was also difficult to get it to fit into the pan.
As the kale softened, it also wilted and didn't take up nearly as much space.  It started smelling really good.  I used kale for the first time just a few weeks ago, so I was glad to be using something unfamiliar but not totally new.  With that one done, now time for the Arroz Blano.

The recipe was much more similar to the Bolivian rice I made a few weeks back than to steamed rice.  I doubled this one, forgetting how much one cup of dry rice actually makes.  Oops.  Summary:

Soak rice.
Fry in oil until it is just turning color.
Add some onion, garlic, and carrots.
Add chicken stock until liquid has been absorbed.
Remove from here, cover tightly and let sit.
Add peas.
Not much that was photo-worthy, other than yummy things all mixed together.
The recipe specifically told me to wait until there were bubbles in the rice and DEAR GOD DON'T STIR.  I thought it was a little harsh...
Back to the main event, now that these are complete and I have my groceries.  Basically, Feijoada is bean soup with a lot of meat.  And I mean a LOT of meat.
Pile o'meat right there.
It was really ridiculous.
We should meet each of our meats individually, don't you think?
Exhibit 1: Ham Hock
Bought right from the Famer's Market.  Apparently it was larger than normal, so he recommended I only use half of it.
All cut up.
The hock is essentially the thigh of the pig, Wikipedia tells me.  As you can see in the picture, it was incredibly fatty.  I wasn't sure whether that was needed for flavor or not, so I kept it in.  Mmmmm, hunks of pig fat.
Exhibit 2: Linguica (of Pork)
Fresh and smelling wonderful.
I got this from the international store that the embassy suggested.  Wikipedia tells me that this is most popular in Portugual and Brazil, which bodes well for authenticity.

Exhibits 3, 4, 5, and 6: Pork ribs, pork, beef, and bacon
That is a lot of rib.
"Lean" pork
Beef.  It's (part of) what's for dinner.
These are the most typical ingredients, so I didn't separate them out.  Also, the bacon wasn't needed until later, so I didn't take a picture as I went to chop it up.  Rib and pork from Whole Foods, beef from the Commissary, and bacon probably from Harris Teeter

There was one more meat, our mystery ingredient.  But this post is getting quite long, don't you think?  Perhaps I should save that for another day...

I know, I'm a horrible person.  I just want to get another day's worth of use out of my Paint skills.  Plus I hate unnecessarily long blog posts.

Next time: Brazil, the Conclusion

1 comment:

  1. Feijoada is delicious! I'm excited that you made it!