Help me to not overthink a plate of beans (and rice)
January 29, 2009 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Rice and beans for the inexperienced and time-pressed cook?

I have a 5 pound bag of (non-instant) rice. I have an assortment of bags of dried beans (a pound of kidney beans, a pound of black beans, a pound of navy beans, etc.). Am I imagining this, or is there a way to prepare a one-shot, one-pot/dish batch of rice and beans in the oven? (I do know that the beans will have to be pre-soaked, but that's about all I know-- my experience with dried beans is limited to including them in a long-simmering soup or stew--I've had bad experiences with bags o'beans in other situations)

I have other potential add-ins like spices, tomato sauce, veggies, etc.
posted by availablelight to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Rice will fall apart or get soggy in the time it takes to cook dried beans fully. Cook a big batch of beans, freeze them in serving-size containers and heat them up when you're ready to eat. Cook the rice separately.
posted by Daily Alice at 11:53 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Throw everything into a rice cooker?
posted by downing street memo at 12:07 PM on January 29, 2009

By a startling coincidence, I just made beans and rice first time, this weekend. Came out pretty good, too.

You can't cook them together. Contrary to popular opinion, the beans don't have to be soaked beforehand (I didn't, and they tasted fine), but they do take 1-2 hours to cook thoroughly. And since you have instant rice, just start that shortly before the beans are done.

I'm sure recipes are pretty common, but I'll try to remember to post the one I used.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 12:17 PM on January 29, 2009

Response by poster: Rice will fall apart or get soggy in the time it takes to cook dried beans fully

You can't cook them together

Dammit. That's what I was afraid of.

Recipes/add-ins welcome.

Any hints/tricks for cooking dried beans beyond the obvious (i.e. easiest to find on google)? I've had ridiculously bad luck before.
posted by availablelight at 12:19 PM on January 29, 2009

Cook an equal amount of rice w/ water (i.e 1 C rice to 1 C water, and rinse, rubbing grains together under running water in strainer for 30 seconds before cooking) in rice cooker or in tightly covered pan, on low, (after it's boiling) for 20- 30-ish minutes. If you soak beans, they'll cook fine in under an hour...if you want them together in a dish, add the rice to the beans at the end just to heat. Mix it in the least possible...or your rice breaks down and loses its "individuality"! The beans would be fine in the oven, for an hour at 350. Unsoaked, probably 2 hours cooked either way.
posted by mumstheword at 12:19 PM on January 29, 2009

New Orleans is famous for red (kidney) beans and rice, though you can also find this dish (deliciously!) made with various white beans and other dried beans... but the key point is that it has to be cooked for a long time, and in the old days, Monday was wash day, and people would let this dish simmer for hours on the stove while they went through the laborious and time-consuming process of washing clothes, which made Monday red-beans-and-rice day - something that is still a tradition, even though modern washers and dryers have rendered it an obsolete time-economy measure.

I used to live in New Orleans, which is why I know all about this, and my experience learning to cook red beans and rice sort of mirrors this person's explanation. But now I live in Greece, where we often make Fasolada, and though the whole Monday washing thing has nothing to do with it, it still takes hours to make it a good soup - which I think is pretty much true of most dried bean dishes. However, the best luck I've had trying to make "fast" bean dishes has been using a pressure cooker. Cook in the pressure cooker with the vegetables (I would sautee the veggies first, if possible - but that takes more time) and meat, if you're using meat, but cook the rice separately.
posted by taz at 12:36 PM on January 29, 2009

Random rice and beans:

1. Cook some beans in a pressure cooker (this reduces that 1-2 hour cooking time for unsoaked beans).
2. In a pan, cook some diced onion in oil. Maybe diced carrots or other vegetables. Maybe garlic.
3. Make the rice (takes ~20 minutes)
4. Add some spices (cumin? chile? oregano? experiment!) to the veggie mix. Add the beans. And *some* of the bean water that the beans were cooked in. Let it cook down till you have beans in a gravy.
5. Serve over rice.

This is what I do (with some experience on spice and veggie options and what beans are good for what things). I have beans and rice generally at least once a week (often a big batch for several days).
posted by R343L at 12:42 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: My experience with dried beans is that each type of bean is a little different. Find specific info on the bean you want to cook. For example, the cooking times listed on this page are different for different types of bean.

I really don't know what bad experiences you've had, but I've cooked a lot of dried beans, and as long as I soaked them for the required time, changed the water, boiled them for the required time, then everything turned out fine. It does take some time, some patience, a little planning ahead. But it's really not difficult. You just follow the basic instructions. Maybe give more info on the bad experiences so we know what to warn you against?

And yes, cook in big batches and freeze.
posted by mosessis at 2:19 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Beanplate. HA!

Seriously, just cook the beans as advised on the package or on Google. Soak if you want them to cook faster. Then cook the rice. Then combine. Both rice and beans are very easy to cook. If it's your first time making this particular type (or even batch) of either, it is advisable to tend to the pot(s) at regular intervals so that you can remove at the right moment. Some people like their beans mushier, some people like them with a bit more firmness. Up to you.

If you want to get creative, try sauteeing some aromatics, spices, and/or veggies in some oil, then throwing your rice and beans in for just a few minutes to coat, combine and warm.
posted by jckll at 2:27 PM on January 29, 2009

I like this recipe for Tommy's Rice and Beans. Nuthin' fancy, but it tastes good.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:27 PM on January 29, 2009

Usually, you'll want to soak dried beans overnight before cooking them. In my experience, doing this and throwing out the soaking water leads to easier digestion of the beans.

I like to boil water, take it off the heat, then put the dried beans in the just-boiled water for soaking overnight (while the water cools). For some reason, this seems to make my black beans even easier to digest than if I soaked them in cold water.
posted by amtho at 4:58 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: For beans that are slightly faster and, ahem, more easily digested, MeFi fave and bean evangelist Mark Bittman recommends:
1. Rinse beans
2. Put beans in a pot with 12 cups water/1 pound of beans, bring to boil
3. Boil for two minutes, then remove from heat and soak for an hour or more
4. Rinse, put in pot with fresh water, simmer until soft (about an hour, depends on type of bean)

My only bean disasters have occurred when I didn't use enough water and wasn't paying attention, allowing the water to cook out and burn beans to the bottom of the pan. So be sure to use plenty of water.
posted by doift at 5:18 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: From a Penzey's Spices magazine:
1 lb dry red kidney beans
8 cups water
1 TB oil
1 ham bone or ham shank
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2-3 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1/4 cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp pepper

Rinse and sort bean, discarding any debris. Place beans in a stock pot with the water. Cook, covered, over low heat, approximately 45 minutes. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add the ham bone/shank and brown on all sides. Remove bone and add to the stock pot with beans. In the same frying pan, saute onions, garlic, celery and parley until the onion is soft. Add everything to the stock pot along with bay leaves, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Cook over low heat for 1 1/2 - 2 hours uncovered, adding water if necessary. About 15 minutes before serving, mash 1-2 cups of the beans in the pot with a potato masher or spoon, leaving the rest whole.

Notes from my experience:
- Makes a lot of "gravy". So make your rice a little on the dry side - it will soak it up.
- I did not use a ham bone. Didn't seem to miss it. Would add next time.
- Next time, I'll probably add more onion and garlic. Maybe carrots.
- Needed a lot more salt. And I don't normally use much.
- Next time, I might substitute half the water with beef or chicken stock.

posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:19 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is my favorite rice and beans discussion ever-- I *heart* AskMe. I'd favorite them all if I could...I'll come back after experimenting over the weekend.
posted by availablelight at 9:18 PM on January 29, 2009

Response by poster: Maybe give more info on the bad experiences so we know what to warn you against?

I had a batch of black beans I cooked in some diluted chicken stock with chopped tomatoes turn into a half raw, half gluey mess.
posted by availablelight at 9:21 PM on January 29, 2009

I live on rice and beans. It does take a long time to cook beans unless you soak them ahead of time (with salt, overnight, usually), and spice them (savory, cumin, curry, whatever), before adding them to the rice in the last minutes of the cooking phase (rice: boil for five minutes, lower heat to a roll, cook for twenty). There is a great deal of personality allowed here: sticky rice, separated rice, mushy beans, firm beans, etc. Express yourself.

If you're looking for fast, may I suggest a concoction I call 'Glorp': Half-cup each of lentils and split peas. Cook both (shouldn't take more than a half hour), and at the fifteen-minute mark, start a rice-sauce mix, like those from Lipton, Knorr, etc. (I suggest the Mushroom flavor) in the microwave. Just as soon as the rice-sauce-mix is done, throw it all together in a pot, and let stand to thicken. It looks disgusting, but it tastes delicious, and it takes a half-hour at most (and for my stomach, lasts about four days, ie. eight servings).
posted by eclectist at 12:19 AM on January 30, 2009

Best answer: I had a batch of black beans I cooked in some diluted chicken stock with chopped tomatoes turn into a half raw, half gluey mess.

My advice: When cooking dried beans, keep boiling them all the way until they are soft, like the beans you find in cans. Then and only then can you "cook" with them (add other things, etc). Don't think of the boiling as cooking, where you're flavoring and making a meal, think of it as reconstituting. Once they are done and reconstituted, then you can do all sorts of things to them - add tomatoes, make soups, grind them to bean paste, mash and refry them. But keep the two processes -the reconstituting and the "cooking" - separate. Some types of beans take seriously forever to boil soft and you don't want your other ingredients boiling that long with them.

This is also why freezing is a great thing. You can boil a whole lot of one type of bean til it's ready. Then, you use whatever portion you're using for your recipe, and freeze the other ones in manageable "can" size portions for future recipes.
posted by mosessis at 6:29 AM on January 30, 2009

Just to clarify - Some beans you can cook normally with other things. Lentils are a great example of this. Dried lentils and split peas (like eclectist says) are so easy - no soaking, half an hour to cook. They are great. But garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black beans: no way, you have to fully cook them first. Look for information on the specific type of bean you are cooking if you're not sure.

Extra advice for lentils and split peas: wash really well. Those things can be covered in dirt.
posted by mosessis at 7:20 AM on January 30, 2009

This is a great reason to have a pressure cooker. It gets beans done in like 30 minutes.

I soak black beans with a bay leaf, cook them in the PC, and prepare the rice at the same time. Then I rise them both, and stir fry them both with whatever spices and subset of {onions,garlic,ginger} feels happy at the time. Sometimes it's more caribbean, sometimes more indian, sometimes creole, sometimes I make some pad-thai sauce.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:07 PM on January 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

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