Beans and Rice, on demand
September 1, 2016 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Fix my life so that I have decent beans and rice for breakfast every morning.

Please suggest me some process hacking tips for ensuring that I have decent beans and rice every morning. Red or black or white all fine. Spicy is idea. I want flavorful beans. Debug my process! How many days do I need?

In previous attempts, I have tried canned and dry, with or without boiling, prewashing. None them feel or taste like beans I had in Guerrero. Sad!
posted by gregglind to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried beans that come in a pouch? I like Isadora a lot, but I see that Goya makes them as well. I don't know why, but they beat beans in a can any day. They taste like my grandma's homemade to me.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:10 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

need more information here. What recipe did you use? What process - oven? Crock-pot? Cooking together or separately?

I will tell you now that I suspect the answer is lard, but I want to hear what you've tried before I suggest tweaks.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:11 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

1. Get dry beans, nice ones. Canned beans are for when you already started a stew and realize you want to put beans in it. You don't have to soak them if you leave yourself enough time. Rancho Gordo are good, and pretty widely distributed. I also have had good results with Zürsun, from Idaho. Really good beans make their own pot liquor if you treat them right—the black and pinto beans from Rancho Gordo would be particularly good for this.

2. Simmer on low for forever, with a few good aromatics and no salt until the beans are already tender. NO SALT UNTIL THEY'RE PRACTICALLY DONE. Add some dried chiles—it doesn't matter what kind, I use a mix of whatever we have around, chile d'arbol, ancho, whatever. Cut them open, shake the seeds out, add at the beginning so that they get soft and the flavor gets into the beans. Garlic, also added early, is necessary, onion is optional.

3. Add some smoke or umami to level up: when I lapsed as a vegetarian, I used to start them with onion sautéed in a little lard, which was, admittedly, amazing. My go-to now are chicos, little ugly dried smoked corn bits that are a New Mexico staple. I've been hoarding the little bag I got last time I was in Santa Fe, so I'm not entirely sure about online ones—these look legit, though, and I'll probably go back to this link when mine run out. You only need a scant handful per pot, so even though these look expensive they'll last you probably a year with regular bean-making. They will make your beans so much better, I guarantee it.
posted by felix grundy at 8:18 AM on September 1, 2016 [11 favorites]

Also: a chef I know starts beans on the stove in a Le Creuset-type deal, and finishes them on a grill with the lid off the beans and the grill lid on, so they get infused with smoke that way. This doesn't fit my tiny apartment cooking style but if it works with your set up, this also produces very good beans.
posted by felix grundy at 8:20 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Epazote is one thing to try.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:32 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

For further clarification, I have tried a zillion different things. Tried and failed? No, tried and died.

I am being vague so that people can re-explain from first principles :)
posted by gregglind at 9:04 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am often asked for my beans recipe:
1. Soak dry beans (ideally overnight) with a TBSP or so of acid. I usually use whey from yogurt, but vinegar also works. Enough beans to cover the bottom of the pan is generally a good rule.
2. Rinse beans and cover with water. Add two cloves unpeeled garlic, one bay leaf, a few shakes crushed red pepper, a few TBSPs olive oil or lard, and a piece of kombu.
3. Once beans are cooked, remove garlic/kombu/bay leaf. Squeeze out garlic cloves and stir garlic back into pot, and add salt to taste. If it still doesn't taste quite right, add more oil. And if you can, try to allow beans to rest before you serve them, they'll be best once the sauce has thickened.

You can of course also mince the garlic and cook that way, but this lazy method works just fine. Other flavorings will work well in addition, but this is the basic recipe. IMHO the biggest thing people forget to do is add the oil.
posted by veery at 9:27 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Make a massive batch of sofrito -- tonnes of garlic, onions, olive oil, tomatoes, various peppers (including hot ones), gobs of cilantro, all simmered into an amazing sauce -- and either just dump this in to the rice and beans, or let the rice finish cooking in the sofrito as it cooks down.

A pressure cooker and salt and dried beans produce the best beans here.

(Wait, you have been warned off salting. Here -- Epicurious: The beans that were salted early on were more tender... Serious Eats: A simple side-by-side test can prove to you conclusively that salting beans (both the water used to soak them in and the water used to cook them) actually tenderizes the skins... Joy of Cooking: However, if you salt beans during the soaking phase, they not only cook faster, but will be better seasoned, the salt penetrating to the core of each bean. Once disabused of the 'don't add salt while cooking' idea I started eating a lot more beans; they come out so much more creamy and savoury.)

Also, if you ever just need to scratch a 'beans for breakfast' itch, this vegetarian recommends ful medames, and, alternatively, a thick slice of white toast topped with sautéed mushrooms, Heinz baked beans, and homemade cheddar cheese sauce.
posted by kmennie at 9:27 AM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Was there a regional term for the beans and rice you had in Guerrero? I ask because the beans and rice dish common to Costa Rica is called "gallo pinto." If you know the name, you can search for authentic recipes. There may be regional seasonings used in that part of Mexico that aren't typically available elsewhere, like the achiote paste and Lizano sauce I brought back from Costa Rica to cook with.
posted by jhope71 at 10:38 AM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do salt your beans (both while soaking, if you soak, and while cooking), and cook them in the oven.
posted by Lexica at 10:55 AM on September 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

huh I've been making killer beans with waiting to salt but I am always willing to have better beans. To that end, here's why I stopped soaking mine: So you like flavor? It's specific to black beans but I've been happy with unsoaked pintos as well.
posted by felix grundy at 1:57 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like beans and rice for breakfast too. Mainly I make plain frijoles de olla (pot beans) and doctor them up with whatever I want afterward. I learned this method of cooking beans as a girl from our Mexican neighbor and not only is it the least fussy method but it also makes the best beans, every time.

Into a pressure cooker put 2 c dried UNSOAKED pinto beans, 5 c water, half an onion, and SALT. Cook until done, you'll have to figure this out anew with each bag of beans but usually 50 min. Divide and freeze if you won't get to them all in a couple of days. Everybody always seems so disappointed that it's not more complicated but it's not. It doesn't have to be complicated to be good.

For rice, use a rice cooker--if you get a nice one you can set it the night before and wake up to freshly cooked rice, and it will stay perfectly good for two days and good enough for a desperate person for three.
posted by HotToddy at 2:09 PM on September 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

I soak dry black beans in water with a bit of baking soda overnight, then rinse and boil them in a pressure cooker with salted water with an onion, some garlic, a blob of coconut oil, and a bay leaf or two for about 20 minutes. You could skip soaking them and just cook them longer, but I find soaking beans with baking soda makes them easier to digest.

If flavor is lacking in the finished dish, definitely try adding more fat: lard, butter, coconut oil, whatever suits your taste. As veery says, lots of people skip this step and then wonder why their dish has no flavor :)
posted by ananci at 10:10 AM on September 3, 2016

Thank you all for suggestions. I made progress. I know there is more progress to be made!

1. The root cause of my failure of trying to make Pot Beans. I now use an Instant Pot, but also had success with a plain Slow Cooker. Immediate, obvious progress from inedible to okay.

2. I got Decolonize Your Diet, and use the recipe for the Old School Pinto Beans, and the Chicana Power Chili Beans.

3. Good Mexican Oregano from Penzey's helped.

All of these transformed my bean game from Terrible to OK. I have yet to add Kombu, better salting strategies, and other OK => Awesome changes.
posted by gregglind at 10:23 AM on May 15, 2017

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