Saturday, July 17, 2010
There are about 195 million people in Brazil, and probably almost as many recipes for making beans (feijão). Some people soak the beans, some don't. Some people add animal fat, such as bacon or salt-pork, others don't. Some people add garlic, while others wouldn't consider it. Every cook has a personal recipe, most likely inherited from a mother, a grandmother, or a maid.
The recipe that follows is an attempt to reduce all these recipes into their most basic form. Treat this recipe not as an instruction on how to make Brazilian beans, but rather as a road-map to lead you to create your own recipe, your personal feijão. Vary it to see what you like best - add a chunk of smoky bacon one time, leave out the garlic another. Use black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans (but probably not chick-peas). Use olive oil or neutral vegetable oil. Make it soupier, make it thicker. Eventually you'll have not the recipe but the process internalized and you'll never again need a recipe to make Brazilian beans. You'll just make them.
RECIPE - Everyday Beans (Feijão)
2 cups dried beans, any type
6 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 med. onion, finely chopped
salt to taste
Spread the dried beans on a rimmed cookie sheet and carefully sort for spoiled beans and small stones. Place the beans in a colander and run cold water over them to wash thoroughly. Put them in a large bowl, cover with cold water (at least 2" higher than the surface of the beans). Leave overnight, in the refrigerator in hot climates. In the morning, remove any beans that are floating - they are likely spoiled.
(If you don't have time for an overnight soaking, follow instructions above, but after washing the beans put them in a large heavy saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the beans to a boil over high heat, let them boil for 2-3 minutes, then turn off heat, cover the beans and let stand for one hour.
Drain the soaked or pre-boiled beans and place them in a clean large saucepan. Cover with water to approximately 2" higher than the surface of the beans in the pot. Add 1 tsp. of the oil and bay leaf, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to bring bean liquid to a very slow boil, cover the pan, and cook until the beans are just tender. Cooking time can range from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the variety and age of the beans. Begin testing the beans after 30 minutes for doneness.
Meanwhile, heat the 2 Tbsp. oil in a heavy-duty frying pan, then add the onion and garlic and saute until they are golden. When the beans are done, add two serving spoonfuls of beans to the pan, then use the back of the serving spoon to mash the beans into the onions and garlic. Return this mixture to the beans in the pot, salt to taste, bring once again to to low boil and cook for 5-10 minutes for the flavor to develop and the liquid to thicken.
Serve immediately, or cool and store in refrigerator or freezer for reheating later.