Heirloom Beans and Red Rice

August 24, 2011

As I was pondering what to make this week, I was thinking I should use the red rice that I bought a month ago at Whole Foods. I thought for a while, and then stumbled upon an amusing idea (self-amusing, anyhow) – instead of red beans and rice, why not beans and red rice? I planned to have 2 andouille chicken sausages left over after making the previous night’s Soft Spring Wheat Berries with Sausage, Leeks, Pepper and Mushrooms, but I needed some beans to use. So I browsed the bulk selection at the Boulder Whole Foods, and found some gorgeous ones – Zuni Yellow Beans and Colorado River Beans. Both of these beans are heirloom varieties, and the more I explore heirlooms of all types, the more amazed I am at the intense and varied flavors. We’ve made red beans and rice before with dried red beans soaked overnight and cooked, but they have never had anywhere near the wonderful flavor of these heirloom beans.

Zuni Yellow and Colorado River Beans

And they are just so gorgeous. Unfortunately after they cooked, they both pretty much became a light brown color, so no vivid yellow, despite the fact that I ended up using mostly yellow ones with that hope. But oh well, the flavor more than made up for any color disappointment.

I realized as I started making this dish that I was using heirloom varieties of 3 of the ingredients. The tomatoes I used to cook down into a sauce were honking big, slightly strange looking heirlooms. For tomatoes, it almost seems that the uglier they are, the better they taste. These ones were so sweet when I tried some raw, they almost tasted like candy. I can’t believe that I spent so much time eating the long-distance shipped, bland, sour tomatoes readily available in the mainstream grocery stores.  And I even ate them in the summer!

The other heirloom I used was the red rice.  Even this had a degree of robustness that its common counterparts, white and brown rice, lack. It was definitely bolder, and I would say almost meaty or smoky tasting. I cooked it in chicken broth, which I think brings the flavors of grains and rices out more than just water (But it doesn’t overwhelm them and make them taste like broth).

Beans and Red Rice Ingredients

This was definitely one of those tornado-has-hit-the-kitchen dishes. But hey – I own these pots and pans, so I’m going to use the #$%& out of them! (I just keep trying to justify the expansive pot and pan usage to myself in different ways as I’m doing the non-dishwasherable dishes afterward. I can’t always tell if I’m fooled, though.) Fortunately this made a pretty huge batch, so we’ll have 2 dinners, plus plenty of extras for lunch.

My Crowded Stovetop

Heirloom Beans and Red Rice
serves: an army (actually, it serves 5 to 6, but when there’s only 2 of you…)
preparation time: eons (in reality, 2 to 2+1/2 hrs)

1+1/2 cups red rice
3+3/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups uncooked heirloom beans, soaked (see below)
2 pre-cooked spicy chicken sausages, chopped into bite-size pieces
3 quite large heirloom tomatoes, chopped (~6 cups)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp hot chile (such as a Hatch chile), minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil (smoked, preferably)
3/4 tsp sugar
1+1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 handful of chopped parsley
1 handful of chopped cilantro

I planned this so the rice and beans would be done before the other ingredients. It’s fine if they cool down, you’ll combine them at the end.

Cover the beans in a few inches of water, and soak 4-8 hours. Drain, and then add to a large saucepan with 6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender (about 75 minutes, but that may vary depending on the type of beans you use).  Add the sausage at some point – I added it during the last 30 minutes, and probably could have put them in the whole time.  Drain and set aside if the other stuff isn’t ready yet.

Combine the rice and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and cook until tender.  The packaging said about 30 minutes, but it actually ended up taking closer to 45 minutes for mine.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, and then add the chopped tomatoes. Add the salt, sugar, liquid smoke and paprika once the tomatoes liquefy. You want to cook them until they reduce and thicken into a sauce, which will take differing times depending on what type of tomatoes you use. And it will seem like they aren’t ever going to thicken, but they will eventually. It took 20-25 minutes for mine to cook down. You may want to turn the heat up to medium high if the tomatoes aren’t simmering on medium. I turned it up and down a few times during cooking. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Then add the pepper, onion, and chile and saute two more minutes. Add the celery, and continue to saute until the onion is translucent and the pepper is tender. Stir in the parsley and cilantro. Add the tomato sauce, rice and sausage and combine well. (Technically for red beans and rice you’d serve everything over the rice, but that’s the nice thing about making your own recipes up – you aren’t obligated to meet anyone’s expectations).

Heirloom Beans and Red Rice


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