Today's dish is from Angola - Feijoada, a Portuguese stew of beans and meat. This dish is popular in areas that were once Portuguese colonies, including Brazil, Macau, Goa, and many West African nations. In much of the world, particularly Brazil, Feijoada is a typical special meal at home, due to how complicated and time intensive it can be to prepare. It's also a common "daily plate" in restaurants (and inspires cassoulets derivative of it throughout South America - I ate a vegetarian one with lentils in the place of the meat at a small cafe several times a week when I lived in Buenos Aires). In South American cuisine, the Feijoada is made with beef, pork, or a combination, usually including several types of either or both beef and pork. Sausage, pork ribs, bacon, corned beef, pork loin, and tongue are all common ingredients, and the stew is light on vegetables, usually just including some onions and garlic.
Angolan Feijoada is in the same style as the classic Feijoada but is as different from the beef or pork Feijoada as my Argentine lentil version was. Instead of using a varied medley of beef and pork products, it uses chicken thighs and sausage cut into thin rounds, and it introduces vegetables to the mix - cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes in addition to onion, garlic, and chiles. It also uses white beans in place of the otherwise traditional black or pinto beans. This is a refreshing difference and makes for a much lighter dish.
A lighter dish is what I needed right now. We crash-dieted for our wedding in October 2012, and after the big day was finally past, we re-toxed from all the long-distance planning craziness and calorie restriction of the prior two months with an eating free-for-all. We got an ice cream maker for a wedding gift, so I started making ice cream several times a week. I put the big bag of cookie dough back in the freezer and dipped into it many nights. I could go on... but I won't. Suffice to say, it's time to eat a little cleaner and lose that post-wedding weight (plus some) that I put on so that I can be ready to wear a bathing suit during my sister-in-law's bachelorette party weekend in the Hamptons in July.
I've spent most of my adult life going through phases where I eat great and am very successful at a healthy lifestyle - and then stress of life and schedule have led me astray. I've lost (and then gained) 40 pounds or more 3 times in the last decade. I'm not a fad dieter and I'm not clueless as to what works for me or what I should eat. I know exactly what to do and when I do it, I am always successful at it - I just don't always do it. Sometimes because I plain don't want to and eating whatever I like (and I like a lot of things) sounds great. Sometimes because my calendar is just too full for me to devote mental attention to it and a pizza for dinner after I had a candy bar and tuna melt for lunch at 3 pm sounds like an excellent idea.
Seriously, either way, who feels like stopping to enter the calorie count for a sushi dinner or a cheese plate plus four glasses of wine into Myfitnesspal all the time (and that's more convenient than it used to be - I remember years ago I used carry around a little notepad all the time to keep my food journal and then look up the calorie counts I hadn't memorized yet at home later)? Or like going to the gym at 8 pm at night when your DVR is full and you've got a book to read and you just worked a 12 hour day? Or at 6 am in the morning when your bed is warm and you can snooze a few more times and you're about to work a 12 hour day? I suspect that only the people who make a career out of promoting diet and exercise to others and to themselves, whose bodies have to serve as a testimony to their professional abilities and commitment to their vocations, or those whose personal interests all lie in nutrition and fitness, can do that consistently throughout their entire lives. And good for them, but that's NOT me.
My usual diet most days of the week while I'm trying to eat well consists of a granola bar and egg whites or blueberries for breakfast; a Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, or Healthy Choice frozen entree for lunch; a NutriGrain bar and string cheese or carrots for an afternoon snack; and soup or stew with toast spread with Laughing Cow cheese, strawberries or grapes, and nuts or pretzels for dinner. Therefore, there will probably be a lot more soup or stew varities of dishes on this blog coming in the future; I will treat myself once or twice a week, and I'll try to make some of those treat dishes for the blog too, so it doesn't get monotonous.
The Angolan Feijoada was tasty and perfect comfort food for what passes as a cold night in Los Angeles (it's been in the mid 30s to low 40s overnight recently). Although red palm oil is very traditional in a lot of African dishes, I don't like the way it tastes, so I substituted olive oil. I also used green chiles because that's what I had on hand.
I had originally planned to make a corn and rice bread to go with this, but it was a caloric no-go and I already had a loaf of plain bread made that needed to be consumed first. The recipe looks good, though, and the use of cooked rice in it is interesting (I wasn't sure how that was going to work and was curious to see). If you like corn bread and can fit into your meal, check it out at The Global Reader.
Feijoada Angolan Style (recipe from CHOW)
13 oz canned white beans (I used cannellini beans)
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
14 oz chorizo sausage, cut into rings (I used 2 links of chicken sausage to keep the stew lighter)
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 ripe tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
6 chiles finely chopped (piri-piri would be authentic, could also use habanero, jalapeno, or any other chile depending on how hot you like your food)
2 bay leaves
1 bunch parsley, chopped
5 T red palm oil (could also use olive, canola, or vegetable oil)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup water or chicken stock, plus more as desired for consistency
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 T of oil in a large skillet and fry the chicken pieces until browned, then remove and set aside.
Fry the sausage rings until browned, then remove and set aside.
Add the onion, chiles, and garlic to the pan and fry until soft, about 6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, beans, and bay leaves to the pan. Fry for 2 minutes and add chicken stock to cover. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, adding liquid as needed to keep moist. Return the chicken and sausage to the pot and add parsley and additional 3 T of oil.
Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as desired and then cook for 30 minutes. Serve hot.