Don’t you just love a hearty dish on a cold and rainy evening? What’s your favorite? Soup? Stew? Casserole? For me, it’s a more often than not beans and sausage over rice. Maybe it’s the Louisianan in me, but I have a soft spot for red beans and rice. But red beans are hard to come by around here. I don’t mean kidneys, but the small red beans that have the right texture and flavor.
Lucky for me, my mom sent me a box full of red beans for Christmas. And, I also discovered that my CSA (Tierra Vegetables) has finally started growing them as well. Yay!
But, I also like other kinds of beans, and other kinds of sausage. Lately, I’ve been on a kick of cooking up black beans, of which there are no shortage around here — I can get a 20# bag at Costco. A couple of weeks, ago, I decided to try adding chorizo to the beans instead of the usual sausage I like. Oh my! What a treat!
If you know me, you know I don’t go in for recipes except as a general guide. Sure, some things like baked goods need precise ratios of different ingredients, but something as simple as beans and sausage, it’s really just a “this much, sorta” type of cooking.
That said, here’s a list of what I included in my most recent pot of beans:
– about a tablespoon of fat for sautéing – I prefer bacon fat, but you can use butter or olive oil or whatever you like
– an onion – technically I used half of a large yellow onion, because that’s what I had, but you could use a white or red onion, leeks or whatever you have on hand
– black beans – I used 5 cups of beans because I want lots of left overs, but you can reduce this amount fairly easily
– ham stock – this is the wonderful ham stock that I made a couple of weeks ago, and stored in the freezer
– smoked onions from Tierra – these are so wonderful — like vegan bacon — but not necessary for good beans
– smoked peppers from Tierra – again not necessary, you can use red pepper flakes
– ancho pepper powder from Tierra – it’s so smokey and sweet and peppery, but you can also use cayenne or chili powder
– chorizo – out of the casing, I used about 3/4#, but you can increase or decrease depending on how much meat you want
– approx 1 tablespoon dried oregano
First step: sauté the onion. Warm the oil/fat in the pot :
Add the onion:
When the onions start to get soft, add the chorizo:
Here’s where I add the chopped smoked peppers and onions and the ancho powder. I don’t know how to explain what kind of complex flavor they give the final dish. The peppers come in strips, but I chop them into smaller bits.
There’s a story about how Tierra came up with their smoked onions by mistake. What a lucky mistake!
Toss the chopped peppers and onions (or pepper flakes) in while the chorizo is still browning, to help them release their full flavors.
Once everything is browned and soft, now it’s time to add the beans. I don’t always soak my beans over night. Sometime I soak them for several nights. And sometimes I do a quick stove-top “soak” where I bring them to a quick boil and then let them cool, and then rinse them. Here is where I also add the dried oregano.
Remember the ham stock I made a couple of weeks ago? No? Then check it out here. You can make beans without ham stock, sure. But why would you? Once I’ve add the stock, I add water until the beans are covered by at least an inch, so they have room to expand and still leave lots of liquid for the bowl.
Then, all the hard part is done. You just let it cook until the beans are soft. You can add salt, but I usually don’t. I prefer to leave the salting to the eaters, since everyone has a different set of taste buds.
Once the beans are soft, you’re ready to eat. I have been on a brown rice kick lately, which is chewy and nutty, and is a nice juxtaposition with the soft beans and savory flavor of the chorizo.
So, I hope cooking beans is a little less intimidating to those of you who may have been a bit apprehensive. See? It’s really quite easy. And beans are very forgiving. If you add enough water, and the right mix of flavor-enhancers (sausage, spices, etc.), then you can’t go wrong.
And, frankly, they’re very healthy and very inexpensive. I recon that this pot of beans probably cost less than $5, and we’ll get at least 10 meals out of it. And what delicious meals they will be! And just in time for the latest winter storm blowing in.
What’s your favorite cold weather dish?