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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rice and Beans and Unemployment

NOTE: While Tim and Ruth deal with the multiple anxieties of a new job, a long-distance move and a pitilessly deadlined project, they've invited their friend Kevin Ireton to sit in as guest blogger. In addition to being a fine writer and a devoted eater, Kevin has recently decided that it's time to learn how to cook.

I became an unemployment statistic back in April and committed myself to doing nothing for as long as possible. (I’m learning how not to be driven.) Well, almost nothing. I decided it would be good if I could learn to cook Mexican food (and then maybe Indian).

I haven’t gotten very far, but I learned to cook rice and beans, which may come in handy given my lack of income. I bought a copy of Rick Bayless’s book Mexican Everyday. Bayless has a fabulous restaurant in Chicago called Frontera Grill, which I was lucky enough to eat at when I had an expense account. He also has a TV show on PBS called Mexico, One Plate at a Time. But in truth, I bought his book because my friend Chuck, who really can cook, told me to.

Bayless says his favorite beans are the ones that “have bobbed for hours in the slow cooker,” so that’s what I use.

1 lb. beans (white Navy, red or black)
2 T. pork lard, vegetable oil or bacon drippings
1 medium white onion, chopped

For some reason, you’re supposed to bring the beans to a boil on the stovetop first. I’m not sure why, but I dutifully follow instructions. Then give them six hours on high in the crockpot. Throw salt in at the end.

The rice is even easier.

1 ½ tsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 ½ cups white rice
1 cup bottled salsa
1 cup chicken broth
1 ½ cups frozen peas

With the oven at 350 degrees, you set a medium (3-quart) ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and rice, stirring frequently for about five minutes. The rice is supposed to turn from translucent to milky white, but Tim (whom I frequently invite over to supervise when I cook) tells me not to worry too much about this stage. Add the salsa, chicken broth and half teaspoon of salt. Stir a couple of times and let the mixture come to a boil.

Cover the pan, and stick it in the oven for 25 minutes. You’re supposed to throw in the peas for the last five minutes, but I’ve never actually done that because we never have frozen peas in the house.

Oh, yeah, and “fluff the rice,” which I had to learn the hard way is quite different from fluffing one’s pillow. Who knew?


  1. Oh - those beans sound good! Good luck with you endeavor to do nothing as long as possible!

  2. Love the guest post. BTW Chuck cooks but he doesn't fluff rice or pillows.

  3. Good luck with your new adventures and welcome to Kevin!

    Thanks for the recipe...I love rice and beans!