Once the Christmas decorations come down, there’s still a long bit of winter left to work through. Around my place, it means cold and wet days, with occasional breaks for ice storms. We only get snow accumulations every seven years or so, and the stretch gets longer every decade. It’s a great time of year for crock pot stews and pot roasts, and then there’s beans and rice.
It can be basic, just legumes and grain, or it can be the start of a Mardi Gras feast. Nope, it’s not too early to start thinking of Fat Tuesday. The 2016 parades started on Twelfth Night in Louisiana, it’s not a stretch to start thinking now about what to have with your king cake - but that’s another story. Right now we’re going to go after something warm and filling to have after a nasty wet and cold day.
There are multiple ways to cook this dish up, with different spices, vegetables and appliances. With sufficient vegetable input, you can do without the sausage, making it a good vegetarian dish or Friday night dinner during Lent.
I recently was gifted with a rice cooker, and tried the quick ‘n’ dirty version of the dish. Because the cooking time is only about half an hour with white rice, this run was made with canned beans.
Don’t look at me in that tone of voice. Canned items might be the only thing you have on hand during an ice storm. Keeping them rotated through your pantry means occasionally cooking from the can on a good week.
Rice Cooker Beans and Rice
2 cups rice (this time it was the short grain Japanese rice Himself prefers)
4 cups chicken broth
15.25 oz can of black beans
12 oz. Smoked Beef Sausage
1 teaspoon canola oil
½ medium yellow onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Chipotle Pepper (in Adobo Sauce), diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
Rinse the rice thoroughly before adding it to the rice cooker pot. Add the chicken broth and the beans, using the chicken broth to rinse out the can.
Slice the sausage into ¼ inch slices, then brown in a skillet or frying pan before adding it to the pot.
In the same skillet, add the oil and the onions and celery with the salt. Saute, until softened and lightly browned on the edges and the fond is incorporated. Add to the pot.
Add the pepper and garlic to the pot, stirring before closing the rice cooker lid. Set the rice cooker to white rice before putting your feet up with a glass of iced tea.
This wasn’t too bad of a mix. I prefer brown rice with black beans, myself (even if my dad called it “that danged old hippie stuff” while he had two servings). But when you have a twenty pound bag of short-grain white rice in the pantry, you use it. Himself suggested not sauteing the veg beforehand, as the celery and onion were there in flavor, but physically nearly lost in the mix. He also advocated adding more broth, as this run was somewhat dry.
I missed the balance that green peppers would have brought to the trinity in this recipe, but I had forgotten to pick one up at the store. The traditional Cajun/Louisiana Creole holy trinity is usually three parts onions, two parts celery, one part green bell pepper. It’s a mix that borrows from two of the many cuisines that transplanted to Louisiana; French traditional mirepoix (two parts onions, one part carrots and one part celery) meeting the Caribbean’s love of peppers, in this case the milder bell peppers. Not all the peppers in the islands are volcanic; bell peppers have been documented in the region back to the late 1600’s.
When I have gone meatless with this recipe, I still use stock instead of water, unless we are really out of everything. Make it yourself or find it at most grocery stores, but a good vegetable stock supports the flavors in the recipe.
My go-to device for beans and rice before we got the rice cooker was the slow cooker. It had the benefit of being something I could set up in the morning before going to work, and have a hot meal waiting. The slow cooker is also my method of choice for cooking dried beans, if I’m going to be out of the house all day. If I’m going to be home, the stovetop method is quicker.
Quick or not, using dried beans does take more prep work than canned - overnight soak is the best method for dried beans, so you need to be planning a day ahead for this one. While it’s true the packaging for food products has improved in the past century, you still need to sort through the beans to make sure it’s all beans. I’ve only found one pebble in the (cough) decades I’ve been doing this, but it just takes one rock to ruin a good day.
If you are making this for a meatless meal, leaving out the sausage makes it a little less spicy. Taste the beans at the end of the first two hours to see if you want more heat, but be careful, as it is nigh impossible to take spices out. Better to make it mild and let your folks add hot sauce or pepper vinegar to their bowls if they want it.
This makes a huge pot, so unless you have a horde of people in the house, you are likely to have leftovers. This is a good thing, for leftover beans ‘n’ rice is exceptionally good.
1 pound dry kidney beans
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
8 cups water
1 tablespoon oil (or bacon grease)
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
6 cups stock (or if you are running low on stock, make up the difference with water)
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
4 cups stock
2 cups long grain white rice
Rinse beans, checking carefully for foreign objects, and then soak in a large pot of salted water overnight.
In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, bell pepper, and celery in oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic for the last minute, and make sure it does not burn.
Rinse beans, and transfer to a large pot with 6 cups stock or stock and water. Stir cooked vegetables into beans. Season with bay leaves, cayenne pepper, thyme, sage, and parsley. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 1/2 hours.
Stir sausage into beans, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the rice. In a saucepan, bring water and rice to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve beans over steamed rice, giving the diners the option to add hot pepper sauce to taste.
Now, years ago, we were taught that beans should not be salted until just before the bowl hit the table for serving, because the salt would cause the beans to take forever to cook. That’s wrong, by the way - the biggest culprits causing beans to be slow to cook are cooking them with acidic foods like tomatoes, cooking them in hard water or using very old beans. Yet another lesson in pantry maintenance; rotate your comestibles, kids!
However, there’s probably another reason to tell people to wait until it’s plated to salt their beans. Considering the average amounts of salt you can find in some of the agricultural extension cookbooks used mid-century, no salt was better than the era’s salt-to-taste levels.
Brining the beans is a different matter.
So with two quarts of water and a pound of beans, two tablespoons of salt is plenty during the overnight soak. Depending on your local water conditions, you might get away with as little as a tablespoon of salt, if you have soft water. I tend to cook with filtered water, as we are in an area with high mineral content. Not as bad as the “liquid gravel” they get out of the tap up on the plateau, but hard enough. The stock has less sodium in the solution, but gives just enough salinity to the beans to keep the denaturation benefits.
These instructions are likely to be repeated when we get to other bean dishes, but by then we might need the reminder.