Monday, December 19, 2011

Black Beans

I'm finally starting to get the hang of beans-- hopefully in general, although lately it's been black beans specifically. I had a somewhat ill-fated adventure with Mark Bittman's Quick Soak method in October. They came out okay, not great. I made some foxboy-spicy bean burgers with them, froze the rest, and unthawed them just in time to make some disastrous pre-business travel burritos. (With melted white cheddar cheese that smelled sour and awful.) I never ate the burritos, and never did get around to eating the rest of the beans.

I knew I wanted to try the experiment again-- but I was hesitant. My rational, healthy food, cheap living brain knew it was a good idea. All that was standing in the way was the amount of time and preparation it'd take. I'm not always real great about thinking ahead, I told myself. I procrastinate. I'm busy. Maybe I should just give up and stick to canned beans? That would be more convenient.

This was all nonsense, of course. I'll do a lot of work and spend a lot of time to make, get, and eat food that I like. My food-brain just wasn't convinced that those black beans were going to be tasty enough to be worth spending even my usual evening's half an hour on. My main experience with black beans outside of that adventure was as a Baja Fresh side, where they were okay but not anything I'd go out of my way to eat. The evidence on black beans in general wasn't good.

But I gave it another shot, and man oh man, am I glad I tried them again. I've got half a pot of Black Beans and Rice, Spanish Style sitting in my fridge, and I'm positively excited about finding ways to use the rest of the pound of black beans I cooked at the same time. Black Beans with Orange (well, tangerine, since that what I have) and Beer Glazed Black Beans are at the top of my list, although I suspect it won't be long before I'm as confident at improvising my own variations on those basic How to Cook Everything templates as I am in the realm of simple pasta sauce.

In particular, the thing I appreciate about the Spanish Style black beans is that you cook the beans and the rice all in the same pot. Rice is another thing I don't make as much as I could due to misalignment of the work/tastiness ratio-- the dry grains get everywhere, and somehow it always manages to crust the bottom of the pan in a way that's a godawful pain to clean up. I don't crave it the way I crave noodles or biscuits or good bread, so that's what I tend to reach for. The only reason I'm as fastidious about keeping rice (Thai jasmine, almost always) in the house as I am is that foxboy likes it. I cook for myself more often, but I cook more for foxboy than myself.

For beans, though, there's no better pair than rice. It's fluffy and chewy where the beans are dense and moist, and it soaks up all that good bean cooking liquid. Being able to just drop rice into the bean pot and bake it for a while fixes the clean-up problem, and I'm definitely looking forward to taking advantage of that now-rebalanced work/tastiness ratio.

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