Source: Family recipe. I used to eat it a lot in my grandmother’s house.
History: In my home state, there are a few kinds of stew, but one of them doesn’t need any qualification, it’s simply “stew”. It’s typically made with lots of meat (smoked and cured with salt), and lots of vegetables. Like the “peixada” I wrote about before, it’s hard not to make a lot of it, so it’s usually done for many people (I actually found a recipe for it on the Brazilian Regional Cuisine book series, and it was listed for 20 people). It’s also served with the “pirão”, a creamy side dish made with the liquid from the cooking and toasted, ground yucca flour (“farinha”).
Variation from the original: It’s hard to find salted meats around here, so I had to overload on the smoked ones (a lot more sausage than before). Also, the kinds of sausages which were used in my grandma’s house couldn’t be found here, so I had to improvise with whatever I could find in the supermarket. Also, I couldn’t find all vegetables from the original. Some substitutions worked out fine (added sweet potato, acorn squash instead of pumpkin), others didn’t (the plantains didn’t come out anything like the large cooking bananas we used in Brazil). I also missed the collard greens (I even bought it, but forgot to add them at the end).
Ingredients from specialty stores: “farinha” (toasted ground yucca root) from a Brazilian store. Thick-cut beef shank from a local butcher. Everything else was found in my local supermarket.
- 2 thick-cut (~2”) beef shank cuts, bone in (~4.5 lb)
- 3 lb. stewing meat (I used cross rib roast), whole roast
- 2 lb. smoked sausage, cut in ~2” pieces
- 1 lb. smoked pork chops, cut in 1” strips
- 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half
- 1 medium onion, peeled, whole
- 1 head of cabbage, quartered
- 1 chayote squash, quartered, seeds removed
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut in 1-2” pieces
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled, halved
- 1 acorn squash, quartered, seeds removed
- 3 ears of corn, cleaned, cut in half
- 1 plantain (I used a green one, it didn’t turn out good at all, next time I’ll try to find a ripe one)
- 1 cup “farinha”
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- limes (for squeezing top of the food at the table)
Almost everything will go in a single pot, so you need a really large one. The shank takes a long, long, long time to cook (at least 4 hours in a normal pan), so plan to start early. Season all sides with salt and pepper, then lightly brown it on a frying pan coated with oil. Then put it in the large pot and cover with water. Season the stewing meat with salt & pepper, lightly brown it and dump it in the pan. Do the same with the sausages (frying pan, then large pot). Everything needs to be covered with water, add more if necessary.
Now start the vegetables. The meat will cook for a long time, so the vegetables will likely be done before the meat is tender, so you can either add / remove the vegetables as they cook, or try to time adding them at the right time. The order of them is approximately the following: carrots / cabbage / onion (done after 1h-1.5h), chayote / sweet potato / pumpkin / corn (done after 30’-1h), potatoes / plantains (done in less than 30’), collards (done in about 15’). I already did both ways, but I find that adding / removing the vegetables is easier to control their doneness – by the end either heat them up quickly in the oven or bring them back to the pan for a few minutes.
The meat will be done when it can be pulled easily with a fork. Last time I took the shanks before they were good (I started late, didn’t give it enough time to get tender), and they were quite rough, but I later put them back in the pan and cooked them for another 3h, and by dinner time they were fantastic. The same with the stewing meat (again, started late).
When everything is almost ready, strain some of the cooking liquid into a separate pan to make the “pirão” – with the pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, slowly pour the “farinha” until it starts to thicken.
For serving, I like to arrange the vegetables and the meats in different serving dishes to make it easier for people to choose. Then serve them with rice and the “pirão”.