Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Red beans & rice

What's good and cheap, has a complete set of amino acids... Rice and beans! Well, any grain plus a legume will work, so whole wheat bread and lentil soup would have done the trick, too.

What about red beans and rice? It's always tasted good when I've tried it, and it might be a fun thing to make. Let's see... should take about three hours, mostly unattended simmering at low heat on the stove.

So, off I went into cyberspace, in search of some ideas. Aha! Alton Brown has a recipe, so I can just stop right there. Yep, I've got the beans, herbs... check, check, check... pickled pork? What? It takes pickled pork? Three days to pickle? Three whole days? No! I said three hours, not three days! So, time to look under the hood and see what I can pull out yet have the dish still function.

Out went the pickled pork (so much for authenticity). I didn't have three days before dinner, but I did have bacon. There may have been some chicken in the freezer, but nothing resembling pickled pork, nohow, noway.

So, what makes pickled pork pickled? Vinegar, salt, spices... I have all that. Pork and three more days, well, that part will have to change. Bacon plus those spices and a few dashes of vinegar should be interesting, even if won't be as meaty as the pickled pork...

Three hour red beans & rice

Instant pickled bacon


  • Kosher salt
  • Yellow mustard seeds
  • Black pepper
  • Bay leaves, fresh
  • Garlic, minced
  • Brown sugar
  • Sriracha (or other) hot sauce
  • Aleppo pepper flakes (or Cayenne)
  • Bacon, chopped. Preferably uncured.
  • Apple cider vinegar - enough to just cover the other ingredients
Mix all this stuff together in a bowl and let it sit while you prep the beans.

The beans

  • Mirepoix (celery, onion, carrot, diced). This would be green bell peppers, celery, onion if it were summer and I was really being authentic. Since its' winter, I used French mirepoix instead.
  • vegetable oil for sautéing
  • Chopped/minced garlic
  • bay leaf
  • black pepper
  • Aleppo chili flakes
  • cumin
  • black cumin (kala jeera) - just a bit since this can get bitter very quickly
  • water
  • red beans, picked over and cleaned of rocks, sticks, etc.
  • dried thyme
  1. Sauté the mirepoix in the vegetable oil until it's translucent
  2. Add the garlic
  3. Add the bay leaf, black pepper, chili flakes, cumins and stir to mix well and heat.
  4. Add the bacon mixture, vinegar and all. Just pour it in.
  5. Add the beans
  6. Pour in enough water to cover everything, but not too much. The idea is to have just enough water to completely cook the beans but not much more.
  7. Add the dried thyme.
  8. Bring almost to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat to simmer. 
  9. After 90 minutes, check the beans. If they're almost done, start the rice.
The rice

  • Rice, long grain preferred but short grain sticky holds together well (not authentic, though, but at this point it's already moved so far from authenticity that it's moot)
  • Butter, unsalted
  • Kosher salt, just a bit
  • 2x more water than rice, boiling
  1. Melt some butter at low heat in a separate pot
  2. When the butter has melted, add the rice and salt. Stir to coat, and keep stirring to keep from burning.
  3. When the rice is a bit translucent, SLOWLY pour in the boiling water. It will steam sizzle and look pretty volcanic. If you were to add the water all at once, it would erupt. 
  4. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer the rice about 20 minutes. 
Once the rice is done, check the beans. If you're using long grain rice,  gently fluff it up a bit with a fork before serving. The rice can sit, covered, a bit if the beans need more time.

When the beans are done, you can thicken the sauce by puréeing some beans in the broth with a blender, then add it back to the pot.

Just place some rice in a warmed plate, ladle some beans over it, garnish with cilantro (if you really don't care about being authentic) and enjoy.

This is a great meal for the Great Recession, since it's cheap even by Scrooge's standards, and filling enough so you won't wake up at 3:00 am craving a snack.

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