Cooking

Try Something New: Wing-It Red Beans and Rice

Red beans with just enough smoked pork to keep my carnivores happy.

I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food again, and I wanted to try more recipes with dried beans (an ingredient that I often struggle with), whole grains and minimal meat. I read several recipes for red beans and rice, but none of them felt right. Plus, I couldn’t get a ham hock to save my life. It was time to improvise.

I had expected the spice mixture to be more along the line of something Cuban, a cumin-oregano-cayenne sort of mixture, but when I added the oregano and chipotle powder first, the smell that rose from the pot seemed to shout for thyme. Thyme? I almost second-guessed myself and added the cumin anyway, but when I took a whiff of it, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. Thyme just smelled right.

I started the process on the stove, finished it in a slow cooker for 4 hours on high, and reheated on the stove the following day. I would expect that cooking for 8 hours on low would have a similar result.

A pleasant surprise: when I took the leftovers out of the fridge the next day, there was very little congealed fat on top. I scraped off barely more than a spoonful, which was impressive considering that it contained the fat from two bacon pieces and a hunk of simmering pork.

Behold: my wing-it version of red beans and brown rice.

Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce bag of small red beans, rinsed and picked over
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 1-inch thick smoked pork chop
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried chipotle powder
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup brown jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Soak the beans overnight. I covered mine with about 5 inches of water.

Pan-fry the two slices of bacon in a heavy-bottomed pot. Let the bacon brown and the fat render. Add onion, peppers and garlic and cook until softened, stirring frequently.

Add smoked pork chop, beans, water, spices and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.

If you’re home for the day, you can undoubtedly let it simmer on the stove, just like this. I had other plans, so I dumped the pot of boiling beans into the slow cooker, set it for 4 hours on high, and went out to my meeting.

Cook brown rice according to package directions, adding 1 Tbsp butter.

Before serving, test for flavor and add salt and pepper as needed. Remove the pork chop and shred the meat, returning it to the pot.

Serve the beans over the rice, preferably with a bottle of Tabasco smoked chipotle sauce on the side.

Results

My husband and Tiny Kitchen Assistant are true carnivores, yet both really enjoyed this meal, much to my relief. When I asked the Assistant for a review, he said, “This is Betty-worthy. Put this on the blog. [His highest form of food praise.] I like the beans with the little pork shreds, and I really like the rice. Can I have this for lunch tomorrow?”

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