January 15, 2017
I made this dish back in May 2013 and loved it. With a gap of over 3 years it was high time to make it again. I originally found this recipe on the Cook’s Illustrated pay site but it is also available on the companion site America’s Test Kitchen (bummer: I just realized this now a pay site too). I created a short hand recipe for my use you can find here.
Let’s get started. Some people hate green bell peppers – I don’t like them raw but in this recipe that grassiness fades away and you don’t have to contend with big chunks if you aren’t a fan.
The beans are the star of the show here. After brining the beans overnight we cook them in water, [home made] chicken broth, half a green bell pepper, half an onion, a couple of bay leaves, a bit of salt and lots and lots of garlic – a whole head minus a few cloves minced for later use.
Into Old Blue they go for 30 to 40 minutes.
While the beans are simmering we have time to prep everything else. Turn on the oven to 350° and chop stuff. Chop the remaining onion and bell pepper into large chunks then into a food processor for a few pulses (or just cut them into 1/4″ chunks by hand).
Thoroughly rinse the rice. I learned this trick years ago at a bento place we frequented when I worked at Portland Community College. I asked the owner/cook how he got the rice perfect. He told me the trick was to get rid of all that grainy, starchy stuff on the outside.
When the beans are tender drain and reserve the liquid – then taste that liquid. Oh, it is just divine. Just getting a taste of that ambrosia is almost worth making this dish. We’ll use that liquid later. Gently sauté the diced salt pork. I sauté salt pork and bacon very gently to render the fat without burning; bacon and salt pork will go from golden brown to burned in a flash. Pull out the salt pork with a slotted spoon, add a bit more olive oil and sauté the onion and bell pepper, fresh oregano and cumin. When the vegetables are soft and thinking about browning, toss in the minced 5 cloves of garlic we pulled out of the heads before simmering the beans. They just need to be sautéd less than a minute to bloom the flavors.
Toss in the rice and stir to coat, then add back the beans and reserved broth, some vinegar for brightness and salt if needed. Cover and place in the oven until the rice is tender. Fluff the rice and serve. I work with a woman, Carolyn, who comes from Hong Kong and she taught me to fluff that rice and let it rest before diving in. There you have two secrets to great rice: rinse thoroughly and fluff before eating.
Plate it, top with some chives and dig in.
You can’t have rice and beans without cornbread can you? I didn’t think so. I cooked some cornbread in the oven with the beans and rice. The corn bread wants a little hotter oven – I compensated by baking it a bit longer – it was great.
When I made this before I rated it a full 5 stars. The beans are just that good. I think the amount of rice overwhelms the dish just a tad here. But just a tad. I think I’ll make just the beans sometime soon and serve them as a side dish or as part of a rice bowl: serve over rice and top with Kalamata olives, tomatoes, avocado, shredded cheddar cheese and, if you live in the Portland area, Yumm! sauce. If you don’t live in Portland I pity you. But search the web for Yumm sauce and you’ll find some alternatives and recipes.