Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rice & Beans

Though I am not Latina, I have my own rice and beans recipe that I think is quite good. It's a really yummy dish and it's good for you too. I shared a rice and beans recipe wayyyy back when my blog was only a few months old. It was a over two and a half years ago (October 2011); whoa, I'm getting old (sobs hysterically). Anyway, back then, I was v. new to food blogging and a bit unsure of myself and not so great at documenting and also not so great at describing how to make my recipes. Fast forward three years and I think my skills have improved greatly. That old post is pretty confusing - my sister complains about it all the time - so I thought it was time for an update.

This post was a lot of fun to redo because rice and beans are one of my favorite dishes and the fact that I got to eat it afterwards was amazing motivation. It's so flavorful, filling, and gorgeous to look at. It makes a great main dish and an awesome side; that's right, it's a double-duty dish. It's delicious alongside skirt steak (which is how I served it this particular day), with grilled chicken, inside a burrito, with a sunny side up egg; so many possibilities, so little time.
Ingredients:
rice
¼ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced bell pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup medium or long grain rice (brown rice and/or wild rice would work too if you prefer though you'll need a little more stock and a longer cooking time)
¼ cup tomato sauce
1¼ cup chicken stock*

beans
15 oz. can rinsed black beans (or 1 cup of dried black beans soaked overnight)
¼ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced bell pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
½ cubanelle pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
2 slices of bacon, chopped*
½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
½ cup chicken stock*
+ salt to taste (probably only necessary if you use dried beans)

*The bacon can be substituted with a few drops of vegan liquid smoke and a little olive oil and the chicken stock can be replaced with vegetable stock to make this dish completely vegetarian/vegan.

The first step is to chop up all of the vegetables. Since most of these will be used for both the rice and the beans, I suggest chopping it up all at once. I'm the type of person that likes to have everything ready to go before I turn on any burners. French chefs love this too. It's called "mise en place" and it's an organized, neurotic, OCD-ridden home cook's dream.

Instead of using one normal-sized bell pepper, I used a few baby bells just so I could pick a few different colors; I mean, would you look at those colors? If your jalapeño is spicy and you can't tolerate spice you can pull out the ribs and seeds but mine wasn't as spicy as I'd hoped (I love my spice) so I left in as many seeds as I could. The onions I just chopped up as normal (I used a Mayan sweet onion) and the garlic was roughly minced by hand (instead of using a garlic press).
I'll begin by explaining the directions for the rice first and the beans will be explained a bit further down. The reason baby sister thinks my previous post is confusing is because I switch back and forth between the rice and the beans too much and it becomes tedious to read through. So, here's take two; hopefully it's up to snuff for my lil' sis.

Pour a little oil into a saucepan and dump in the onion, garlic, and bell peppers. Let the vegetables cook for a few minutes until they've softened up a bit. Then, pour in the rice and stir to get the grains coated in a little fat. That will help each grain stay separate so your rice doesn't resemble a messy pink porridge-like blob. Once it's all mixed up, pour in the tomato sauce, stir, and pour in the chicken stock and stir again. You just want to stir to make sure the stock and tomato sauce are mixed together and evenly distributed so there aren't pockets of sauce. Don't stir too aggressively; you're not trying to make a risotto here.
Reduce the heat to low and pop on a lid and leave the rice alone to cook for 10 to 12 minutes until fluffy and delicious.

If for some reason you're the type of person who always seems to burn the rice, here's the trick I shared in my previous post. Reduce the heat to as low as it will go and let the rice cook with the lid off. Give the rice a stir every so often, just one movement to scrape the rice on the bottom of the pot and shuffle it to the top, and to move the rice on the top of the pot to the bottom - do this every 4 minutes or so and this will help prevent the rice from creating a burnt cracker in the bottom of the pot. After about 10 to 12 minutes, most of the moisture should be absorbed but the rice will still look slightly wet and soupy. Pop the lid on, turn off the heat, and leave the rice alone for another few minutes just to let that residual moisture absorb into the grains. Hopefully this little trick works. If it doesn't, then sorry but I have no idea what else to tell you. Maybe you're cursed.
This is what the rice should look like when it's ready to go. Nice and red from the lovely tomato sauce with each individual grain of rice still in tact. Give it a quick fluff before you serve it. [I spy with my little eye, George Michael's little legs in the photo below. Do you see him too?]
Okay, now that we've covered the rice, let's talk about the beans. Obviously you can be cooking both the rice and beans simultaneously because you want them to be ready to enjoy at the same time. But like I said, it's just easier to read the directions separately.

To make the beans, add chopped bacon to a wide and shallow pot. [If you're going the vegetarian/vegan route, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and just 1 or 2 drops of liquid smoke and throw in your veggies]. Let the fat render out and allow the bacon to brown a bit and then toss in the peppers, onion, and garlic. Stir around to get the vegetables coated in that yummy bacon fat and allow them to get a bit soft. While the peppers are getting going, you can crack open your canned beans, dump them into a colander and give them a good rinse. Canned beans are quite salty so you want to get rid of some of that extra sodium. If you're quite sensitive to salt (like I am) you can give the beans a good soaking for 20 to 30 minutes prior to cooking them to really draw out the excess salt.
Next, add in the beans, bay leaf, vinegar, cumin, oregano, and chicken stock. Give the beans a stir and let them simmer for a little while, until the chicken stock reduces by half and gets lovely and thick. It might take 10 minutes or so, just give the pot a stir every once in a while to make sure the ingredients are heating evenly.
Look at this match made in heaven. What a colorful, flavorful, delightful pair of friends.
Serve up the rice and beans with a giant pile of skirt steak and some awesome chimichurri, as I did. Or, just have it on its own, as it is really delicious all by itself. Rice and beans also make an awesome lunch the next day, as they heat up really well on the stove top or in the microwave.
When it comes time to eat, I like make myself a comfy little bed of rice and press a dimple into the top with the serving spoon. Then, I like to grab a generous portion of beans, making sure to dip the spoon into the yummy liquids so that when they're plopped down on the comfy rice bed, the sauce will ooze down between the grains. The rice acts like a perfect little mop so you don't lose any of the flavors you so lovingly coaxed together. But, not everyone's a bean-on-top-of-rice kind of person. There are some people who prefer their rice and beans side-by-side. You can do whatever you like and I won't judge. It's rude to judge your friends (and strangers) on their food preferences. Everyone is entitled to please their tummies how they choose.
Ooh, by the way, here's an amazing tip: shredded pepperjack cheese sprinkled onto the rice and beans is a great little addition. The cheese starts to get lovely and gooey and melty; it's a gorgeous sight to behold. Ah, what a lovely protein-filled, flavor-packed, vitamin-rich, delicious, awesome meal, huh? Plus, it's super economical, since both rice and beans are staple pantry ingredients - rice (bought in bulk) is cheap and canned beans are super affordable, especially if you pick up a few (dozen) cans on sale.

Also, combining grains and legumes forms a complete protein, meaning all 9 essential amino acids are present in adequate proportions which is great news for vegetarians and vegans alike. Beans are great for your digestive system (insert fart joke here) and rice is a carb, a.k.a. a great source of energy. But the best reason to make and eat rice and beans is the taste. It's so yummy, I could cry.

Here's the recipe page:

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