My girlfriend Christina gave me the best Christmas present – Rancho Gordo beans and popcorn. She lives in San Francisco now, so while I don’t get to see her very often these days, the (albeit tiny) silver lining is that she is local to the fabulous Ferry Market and when she comes home to visit, she can bring me Rancho Gordo goodies and I can consider them ‘local.’ Because it’s local to her. And she flew to me. And just happened to pack pounds and pounds of dried bean goodness in her luggage. And then leave it behind. See how that works?
The Rio Zape beans are quite lovely and actually more purple than red (although Mexican Purple Beans & Rice just didn’t have the same ring) especially once soaked. They cook up tender and meaty and quite rich; perfect, according to Steve Sando, as a simple pot bean or a side dish. Ever gilding the lily, I decided to mix them with fragrant aromatics, spicy cured sausage and dried garden herbs to make a fabulous (if I do say so myself) yet rustic red beans & rice. This dish takes a long time, what with a 6-hour soak, then a 2 – 3 hour simmer of the beans, but most of it is non-active time. Other than some chopping of veggies and a quick brown of the sausage, this is a one-pot meal that you can toss in there and forget about. I bet it would make a good CrockPot meal for those of you in the slow-cooker camp. It’s also amazingly budget-friendly for those of you in the we-just-paid-the-rent-and-don’t-get-paid-till-Friday camp; even the fancy heirloom beans are only $5/lb, the sausage was about $7 and the veggies, oh probably $2 or $3 all together. Given the enormous mountain of beans that this recipe makes, I’d say 10 servings is pretty generous, so that makes it out to about $1.50 a serving! Crazy, especially for food this healthy and this delicious. The beans are so rich and flavorful that you could easily omit the sausage for a vegetarian version (which would make it a ridiculous $0.75 a serving). Even more budget-friendly news: did you know that Rancho Gordo will ship any order, of any size, anywhere in the US, for a flat rate of $8? I didn’t either. Given my love of their beans, and now of their popcorn, I think I’m in big trouble.
Spicy Mexican Red Beans & Rice
- 1 lb dried Rio Zape beans (or Red Nightfall beans, or kidney or pinto beans)
- 3/4 lb spicy chourico, sliced
- 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper (fresh or frozen), diced to 1/2-inch
- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 small red jalapenos, minced (fresh or frozen)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- cooked rice, for serving
- fresh cilantro and Tabasco (both kinds, because that’s how we roll), for garnish
- Rinse dried beans and soak, covered by 2 inches with cool, filtered water, for about 6 hours.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Lightly brown chourico slices, about 2-3 minutes per side, in batches if necessary (do not crowd the pan). Remove to a plate and set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-low heat. Saute onions, garlic, peppers and celery until softened and fragrant, about 10 minutes. (Add more oil or a little water to prevent sticking if necessary).
- Add beans, with the soaking water, along with bay leaf, oregano and thyme. Add chourico. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat until the beans begin to break down, about 2 to 3 hours. Uncover for the last 30 – 60 minutes if needed to thicken up the sauce.
- Once the beans are quite tender and breakding down, raise the heat to a lively boil, stirring constantly, and reduce the sauce to your desired level of thickness, about 10 – 15 minutes. To aid in thickening, mash some of the beans against the side of the pot with a spoon or spatula. Serve hot, over rice, with fresh cilantro, a splash (or 3) of Tabasco, or hot pickled peppers.
Serves 10 to 12.
- The original recipe called for Red Nightfall beans instead of Rio Zape beans, and a 1-lb ham shank instead of the chourico. If using the ham shank, add it with the beans, then remove at the end of the 2-3 hour simmering time. Remove ham meat from bone, shred, and add back to the pot once the beans have been thickened; heat through and serve.
- This came out with a nice kick, but not too spicy; I’d give it a medium to medium-mild rating. To reduce the spiciness, reduce or eliminate the jalapeno peppers. To amp it up, I recommend adding cayenne pepper or other spicy chile powder at the end; that way you don’t run the risk of making the giant batch way too spicy (not that I’ve ever done that) and having to find endless ways to tone down the heat.
- This dish can be local (with the exception of the rice) with Red or Pinto beans from Cayuga Pure Organics.
For up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Like all stews, this will thicken and be even tastier on the second day.