Thursday, September 2, 2010

RECIPE - (Baião for Two) Baião-de-Dois

Continuing Flavor of Brazil's exploration of the humble black-eyed pea (feijão-fradinho in Portuguese) this recipe comes from the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará, and differs from most black-eyed pea recipes in that it uses freshly-picked beans, rather than dried ones.

Luiz Gonzaga
The dish is called baião-de-dois, which might be translated into English as "baião for two" or "baião of two."  The baião is a typical folk dance of Ceará, and has a rhythm that is still part of the music culture of that state. In the middle years of the 20th century, two well-known and well-loved musicians (Humberto Teixeira and Luís Gonzaga) wrote and popularized a song called Baião-de-Dois, and somehow the name attached itself to a simple but delectable dish of fresh black-eyed peas and rice cooked together. Presumably, someone thought that the two ingredients went together like a couple smoothly dancing the baião, and the name stuck. If you'd like to hear the song, I've embedded a YouTube video below of an amateur version. It's very sweet and nostalgic:

There are innumerable variations and countless recipes for baião-de-dois. Some are very basic - just a combination of beans and rice with flavoring elements - and some are more complex. Many versions of the dish add carne de sol, the dried beef typical of northeastern Brazil. Others add pork. And everyone in Ceará thinks that their mother's or grandmother's recipe is the only true recipe for baião-de-dois. The following recipe is my own, combining elements from many recipes in an attempt to recreate the Ur-baião-de-dois. 
RECIPE - (Baião for Two) Baião-de-Dois
Serves 6

1 lb (500 gr) fresh, shucked black-eyed peas
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large yellow onion, grated
1 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. neutral vegetable cooking oil
2 1/2 cups long-grain rice, washed and drained
6 cups (1.5 litres) light chicken, beef or vegetable stock
salt to taste
5 oz. (150 gr) home-style cream cheese or ricotta salata
In a large heavy pan, cook the black-eyed peas until just tender (about 15-25 minutes, depending on the freshness and age of the beans). Drain, and refresh under cold water to stop the cooking process.

In another large heavy pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat, then saute the garlic and onions briefly until transparent but not browned. Add the rice and chopped cilantro and continue to cook until the rice becomes transparent. Stir in the beans, add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover pan, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until all the stock is absorbed. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt, and let stand for five minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble the cheese, or form into small balls, depending on the consistency of the cheese. Briefly uncover the pan, stir in the cheese, then recover it. Let the dish stand for another five minutes to melt the cheese.

Stir the dish once more to distribute the melted cheese, then turn it into a serving dish and serve immediately.


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