Red beans and rice (in the crockpot, because I’m lazy)

December 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

Among the many places I’ve lived, El Salvador is among my most favorite.  The culture and people are delightful, and the food is sublime and so incredibly fresh.  In our Salvadorean back yard, we had mango and papaya trees, and we enjoyed their fruit with every meal.  Every day, my Salvadorean mom (not my biological mom, but still “mom” to me) would go to the market, and bargain for rice, beans, fresh produce, cheese, and meat.  I’m pretty sure we had a refrigerator in the kitchen, but it really wasn’t used much…nothing had a chance to spoil, since it was either grown on the premises and picked fresh each day, or it was purchased and cooked just in time for dinner.

We didn’t eat much meat, mostly because vegetables were so plentiful there wasn’t really much room for it.  When we did have meat, it was used more as a seasoning, as opposed to being its own course.  Our meat dishes incorporated small bits of chicken, ground pork or sausage, mixed with plenty of fresh vegetables, rice and the ever-ubiquitious red beans, which appeared at every meal.   I loved Salvadorean red beans…they were delightful (and still are).  They hold their color and shape under intense cooking, and also mash well.  They’re beautiful to look at and delicious.

I was recently thrilled to find Salvadorean dry red beans at my local grocery store.  They were priced slightly higher than other beans, but so worth it.  If they’ve made an appearance in your own grocery store, I urge you to give them a try.  Even Dave, who is not a fan of beans, enjoys them (and he is a very, very picky eater).

Unfortunately, Salvadorean red beans appear to be seasonal (why, oh why did I not buy 10 bags when I had the chance???), so this evening, we are having red beans and rice made with regular old red beans.  Oh, they’re still delicious, but they lack the utter deliciousness that comes with Salvadorean red beans and rice.

The recipe is so easy.  We make it in the crockpot. and when we come home from work there’s our dinner, just waiting for us.  It is such a nice welcome, after a long hard week.  And yes, you can substitute water or vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and completely omit the smoked sausage from this dish, and no one will know the difference…it is just that tasty.  Even picky-eater Dave eats it (which is saying a lot, because with so many meals, he’ll just come to the table and say, “I can’t eat that”).

Red beans and rice (the lazy-crockpot-way)

1 pound dried Salvadorean red beans, rinsed and sorted over (use the regular red beans if your grocery store doesn’t have the kind from El Salvador)

1 cup chopped onions*

1/2 cup chopped bell peppers*

1/2 cup chopped celery*

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne red pepper (use 1/2 teaspoon, if you want it a little less zippy)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

3-4 bay leaves (we have these growing on our farm, and oh, they are so delicious, but you can use the dried store-bought-kind, if you aren’t lucky, like us)

3 tablespoons chopped garlic

8-10 cups chicken broth (use plain old water from the faucet, if you don’t have any chicken broth…it’ll be just fine)

1 pound smoked jalapeno sausage, cut into 1/4-inch disks (if you can’t find smoked jalapeno sausage, just use whatever smoked sausage you can find)

2-cups long grain rice

4 cups water

Start the night before you plan to serve this.  Place the red beans in your crockpot.  Cover with the onions, bell peppers and celery (or a package of mire poix blend…see *below), then the salt, cayenne, black pepper, thyme, bay leaves, and garlic.  Pour over enough chicken broth (or water) to come to within 1 1/2 inches of the top of the crockpot.  Cover with the lid, and place the pot in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, remove the pot from the refrigerator, and set it on Low.  Cook all day (8-10 hours, or longer because it will still be just fine even if your boss makes you stay late).  When you come home, add extra chicken broth, if needed.  Meanwhile, take the two cups of rice, and the 4 cups of water and cook them in your rice cooker (or a pan on top of the stove, according the package directions).

While the rice is cooking, saute the sausage in a saucepan on top of the stove.  When it is cooked through, place it in the crockpot with the beans.  Then, take the time to get a potato masher and mash up some of the beans in the crockpot.  This makes all the difference in the favor and consistency of the dish (you’ll thank us for this little tip…you’re welcome).

When the rice is cooked, place 1/4-cup cooked rice in the bottom of each individual serving bowl.  Ladle over a hefty portion of the red beans and rice with plenty of broth.  Season with extra seasonings, if desired (I like a few shakes of Tabasco sauce, but you might also enjoy chopped green onions, or just trying the the dish plain).

Serves 6-8.

*Instead of chopping up the onions, bell peppers, and celery, just be lazy like me, and buy a frozen bag of Mire Poix Blend at the grocery store, and use that.  Soooo sorry if you are living in the North (like Chicago or Pennsylvania), and you can’t find frozen Mire Poix at your grocery store…you just don’t know what you’re missing.

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