Brazil has an amazing national dish: a multi-platter production number known as feijoada, which shuts the country down every Saturday as Brazilians while away hours consuming this delight. You can now find feijoada at Brazilian restaurants in the U.S., though Americans haven’t really taken to it yet. At the heart of a feijoada is a delicious bowl black beans, served alongside a platter of multifarious parts of the pig. The following recipe is a kind of abbreviated feijoada, in which ham hocks mingle with bean juices—creating one of the best Latino black-bean side dishes you’ve ever tasted. If you find the finished product a little soupy, you can either 1) savor the soupiness, and pour the beans over steaming white rice; 2) purée some of the beans and blend them back into the pot (as the recipe instructs); or 3) simply strain the pot of beans.
1 pound black beans, soaked overnight (see NOTE)
2 green bell peppers
2 bay leaves
2 smoked pork hocks, about 1 1/2 pounds total
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion chopped into 1/4″ dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon leaf oregano
hot sauce to taste, if desired (see NOTE)
1. Place the soaked beans in a 6-quart pot, and just cover with water. Cut one of the bell peppers into quarters and remove its seeds. Add to the bean pot along with the bay leaves and pork hocks. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so the beans don’t stick. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the beans are almost tender but still retain a little chew; this will take about 2 hours depending on how old the beans are. Check from time to time and add more water if necessary.
2. Meanwhile, place the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the stem and seeds of the remaining bell pepper, chop it finely, and add to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat to low and cook until the moisture from the tomatoes has evaporated, an additional 5 minutes or so. Add the cumin and the oregano. Set this mixture aside.
3. When the beans are cooked, remove the pork hocks and set aside. Remove the bay leaves and the green pepper and discard. Add the onion mixture to the beans and continue to simmer, covered, for an additional half-hour. Add more water if necessary.
4. After half an hour the beans should be very tender. Scoop out three cups of beans and coarsely purée in a food processor or in a blender. Return the puree to the beans and blend well. Remove the meat from the ham hocks, shred, and add to the beans. Check for seasoning. Make sure the beans are hot, and serve immediately. Pass hot sauce, if desired.
Bean NOTE: Before soaking the beans, it’s very important to pick them over, looking for stones and other foreign objects. Spill them onto a flat surface (a baking sheet is ideal), and sort out the impurities with your fingers.
Hot Sauce NOTE: The Brazilians like to sprinkle their fejoiada with vinegar in which very hot chiles, called malaguetas, have soaked. This bottled preparation of vinegar is now available in groceries in South American neighborhoods of the U.S. But feel free to substitute the hot sauce of your choice.