Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Rice 'n' Beans

Due to our impending relocation back to Canada, Graeme and I have spent a fair bit of time reflecting on the transient nature of Oxford. It can be bittersweet--you live in this place, become accustomed to the faces you see and the places you go, but while the old stone buildings have not changed in centuries, everything else comes and goes very quickly. We've formed our attachments here: workplaces, friends, favourite cafes and our infamous market, and while it's time for us to go, it is certainly difficult to let all of that go.

The good thing about this transience, though, is meeting and befriending people from anywhere and everywhere, and bullying them into cooking you their regional specialties. When those people inevitably leave you and return home, they may at least let you have their recipes. I have gained countless recipes over the past 4 years that I've lived here in that way, and I'm all the more richer for it.

The following instructions for cooking good 'ole Louisianian style rice and beans came from my dear friend Brooks, who I spent a lot of time with in my second year. Brooks would cook up whole pots of this stuff for large groups of friends, ranging from Canadians, Americans, Italians, Greeks, Germans, etc. Brooks is now back in New Orleans doing her thing, but I forced her to teach me how to make this wonderful comfort food dish. I made it a couple of weeks ago when I was craving kidney beans so bad it was unbearable. Yes, I know I'm the only person who craves things like kidney beans.

The Recipe:

Rice and Beans à la Brooks


200g kidney beans (soaked overnight)
1 large onion, chopped up relatively finely
Several cloves of garlic, minced
Several stalks of celery, chopped up relatively finely
Meat (I tend to use bacon), chopped up
Seasoning: I use salt, pepper, bay leaves, Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning (this was a gift from Brooks from a recent visit to Oxford!)
200g or so of rice

Put the soaked beans in a large pot, and cover them in about an inch or two of water. Cook this over a low heat, with the pot covered, while you do everything else.

Sautee the meat in a pan until it's well cooked. Add the meat to the beans, but save the drippings in the pan. Use the drippings to fry up the onion, garlic, and celery (and I quote Brooks here, affectionately called 'the holy trinity' by Catholicchefs down in New Orleans"). Add said trinity to the beans as well. Season the beans.

This concoction will have to cook for a while--like making chili, the longer you let it cook, the better. I'd say that at the bare minimum, you want to give it a good 45 min. As the beans get softer, smash some of them up against the wall of the pan while you stir it--this will give the mixture a creamier texture. In the meantime, boil up the rice, and serve rice and beans together, in harmony. Delicious, filling, and comforting.

3 of us ate this with at least a serving and a half to spare. We served it with my housemate's awesome Slovenian stuffed peppers on the side, making a truly Oxford international dinner.

What is healthy about this recipe: Depending on the meats you add, what kind of rice you use, etc, this recipe can be super healthy (wouldn't be hard to make brown rice and vegetarian rice and beans), or not so much (white rice and bacon, like I made it this time). Everything in moderation.

What is seasonal about this recipe: Celery is in right now, but otherwise rice and beans defy all seasons.

What I learned from this recipe: I have only recently finally learned how much better it is to cook with dried beans as opposed to canned beans. So much more texture! Not as scary as it seemed to just need to soak them beforehand! Dehydrated beans forever.

What I will change next time: Someday, when I own a slow cooker, this would be a perfect slow cooker recipe. Just throw your stuff in in the morning, and leave it stewing all day at a low heat, and voila, a gorgeous dinner in the evening. I want a slow cooker.


Anonymous said...

Actually, in my experience, slow cookers don't do beans well, they stay too hard. They're great for making chicken broth while you sleep though.

Anonymous said...

Actually, in my experience, slow cookers don't do beans well, they stay too hard. They're great for making chicken broth while you sleep though.

Anna said...

Huh. Interesting, thank you for the caveat. I don't think I have ever used a slow cooker before, which is why they are a big mysterious wonder to me.

Tiffany said...

Wow. You are definitely not alone in your craving for kidney beans. I actually just found your blog by searching "is it weird to crave kidney beans" on Google. lol :P I get weird cravings for things like that all the time. Any idea why that is? I've been wondering if its like a protein deficiency or something, but I don't really know.