Kristy Wenz is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover, experimental home cook and avid traveler. She blogs regularly at Eat Play Love, where she and her family explore cuisines and cultures around the globe.
The October issue of Wine Tourist Magazine marks the one-year anniversary of the World Platter. Thank you to everyone that has helped to make it a success. We hope it has brought deliciousness to your table, complemented your favorite glasses of wine and perhaps even offered some insights behind the recipes to share with your family and friends. The world is vast and diverse, but through food, wine and community we can celebrate traditions, histories, and local lifestyles from around the globe. How better to share in our similarities and relish in our differences than around a table filled with good food while raising glasses of wine!
Portugal’s Geography and History in Brief
This month Wine Tourist is embarking on a tour through the traditional and emerging wines of Portugal. Located on the Iberian Peninsula next to Spain, Portugal is geographically small in size, but features vastly different terrain from coastal regions, to dry rolling plains, and cool mountainous landscapes; all of which directly influence local food and wine. With a fairly moderate climate across the country and access to both farm lands and fishing waters, Portugal is widely known for seafood and meat-based dishes, as well as a variety of fresh seasonal produce. Likewise, Portugal is renowned for its traditional production of Port and Madeira wines, for which it is much respected. However, with 79 grape varieties and nearly 600,000 acres of vineyards, it is both increasing and improving its production of dry white and red table wines.
Directly influencing Portugal’s food and wine culture is its long and complicated history, first traced back to 2000 B.C. when its indigenous people began wine production and were soon introduced to Phoenician grapes. Roman occupation later ranged from 50 B.C. through the late 400’s and brought with it new grapes, wine making techniques and cooking styles. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Portugal witnessed centuries of religious conflict, invasions and fights; all of which was followed by the prosperity of the post-medieval times. Between 1400 to nearly 1600, Portugal rapidly expanded through exploration, trade and colonization through which a variety of new spices, cultures and ingredients, as well as Port and Madeira production, left permanent marks. Then from the late 15th century through the early 1900’s, Portugal struggled to retain its prosperity, stability and independence, thereby increasing its isolation from much of Western Europe. Fascism took hold in the early 20th century until the Carnation Revolution of 1974, when Portuguese citizens, in support of a rebel army, placed carnations into the barrels of soldiers’ guns. The nearly bloodless revolution quickly led to democracy after which Portugal eventually joined the European Union.
This drastically simplified geographical analysis and historical synopsis now leads us to this month’s recipe – one rich in tradition, rooted in a deep sense of culture, and steeped in Portuguese pride – the feijoada. Derived from the Portuguese word for beans, feijão, a feijoada is a hearty bean and pork stew. It is both simple in preparation and complex in flavor; and also perfectly suited for both a mild dry Portuguese red and an autumnal evening. While the differences in specific ingredients and style are nearly endless, typical feijoada recipes are reflective of a historical need for efficiency and practicality; but they also loudly echo the love, tradition and soul of a big family or communal meal.
What will you need? Let’s start with the base – a large stock pot or deep skillet, beans (white are traditional to Portugal while black are used in Brazil which has wholeheartedly adopted the feijoada), meat (pork and offal being typical), olive oil, garlic and spices. Dried beans are most traditional, but to make this recipe more practical we’re using canned and have selected one of our favorites – cannellini beans. We’ve also combined both pork belly and cheek (skipping the offal), but a good chorizo would also be fitting. To flavor the stew we used shallots, garlic, paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper, tomatoes, and lemon juice, while our liquid base comes from a dry Portuguese red from the Alentejo region and vegetable stock. In finishing the dish, we also added kale for texture, color, nutrition and flavor.
To prepare the feijoada, begin by browning the meat. Then the shallots, garlic and paprika are added and cooked for a few minutes before the remaining ingredients (except for the kale and lemon juice) are added to the pot. The stew is first brought to a boil, then reduced to a simmer and covered for about an hour and 15 minutes. At this point the kale and lemon juice are incorporated for a final 15 minutes. We should note here, that the kale is roughly chopped and a ½ tablespoon of olive oil was gently massaged into the leaves before adding it to the stew. This technique, taught to me by a friend and nutritionist a few years ago, breaks down the kale’s fibrous cell walls making it easier to digest and also lessening the sharp bitter taste of the nutritious green. While this is very helpful when utilizing raw kale in salads, it is also advantageous here as we’re adding the kale at the end of the stewing process, which will help to retain its bright color and a slightly crunchy texture.
An Autumnal Treat
Not only is this feijoada creamy, hearty and delicious, but it’s also a breeze to prepare, uses only one pot and will make your house smell fantastic! To serve, ladle the hot stew into individual bowls with a side of warm, crusty bread perfect for sopping up the savory flavors. This feijoada is satisfying without any accompaniments, but can also be served with a dash of Spanish Sherry vinegar which beautifully softens the tasty fat rendered by the pork belly and cheek.No matter how you serve it, a glass of that dry red from Alentejo used for the stock pairs magically. Like Portugal itself, the feijoada has a long history, is fascinating for its relative simplicity and deep complexity, and will leave you satisfied but craving more. So light the fires, break out the plaid woolen blankets and get ready to snuggle up with a hearty bowl of this month’s featured dish (perhaps still on the patio with the harvest moon bright overhead!). It’s a recipe guaranteed to serve up warmth, love and Portuguese soul. Saúde.
Portuguese-style Feijoada (Pork and White Bean Stew)
- 3 T olive oil, divided
- 1.5 to 2 lbs. pork belly and/or pork cheek, cut into 1”-1.5” cubes
- 3 shallots, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 t paprika
- 4-14 oz. cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
- 2-3 large tomatoes, diced
- 3/4 c dry red wine
- ½-1 c vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sherry vinegar to taste, optional
- Season the pork with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the vegetables and measure out the spices allowing the seasonings to enhance the pork.
- In a large, stock pot or deep skillet, heat 2-1/2 T olive oil. Add the pork to the skillet and brown on all sides, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
- Next add the shallots, garlic and paprika. Stir and heat until the shallots begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Then add the white beans, tomatoes, 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt, red wine, stock and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for an hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if needed.
- While the stew is cooking, add 1/2 T olive oil to the chopped kale and massage it through with your fingers. After the hour and 15 minutes, add the kale and lemon juice to the pot, stirring to incorporate. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot with a slice of crusty bread. Add a dash of Spanish Sherry vinegar to individual servings if desired.