Thursday, March 10, 2011

Collards and Beans and Rice and Such

A warning for those of you who need it - bacon ahead.

We've discussed my disinterest in recipes - spoiler alert - no recipe today.  How long do I simmer it?  Until you're done with that other thing you're doing.  Seriously.  How much onion do I add?  I don't know, how much onion do you have handy?

That's how I cook most things.   As is convenient.  Baking is different and I don't do much of it.   The lack of planning and disdain for mise en place does get in the way sometimes, but I can't imagine I'm the only one who cooks up a half-crappy dinner now and again.   Do I want to stress myself out to do that slightly less often?  Probably not.

So dinner is as it comes together.  Oh, we have some more of that?  Add it in. 

Tonight the plan was to make the beans and rice and collards I didn't make yesterday.   I'm just breaking the frozen rice habit.  I started on boil in bag, and upgraded to frozen cooked brown rice about a year ago.  It's convenient, and it's not like it's processed rice food, the ingredients are: rice.  So I went and bought real rice, because I've never found the texture of the frozen rice thrilling.  Look, rice:

I'm into jars.
And I put a cup of that in a pot.

And I added a cup and half of stock and I brought it to a boil, then a simmer, then let it sit, covered.  I got some onion and garlic going in a pan. Meanwhile I started thinking beans.  Canned beans, because I didn't get them soaking.  This is when I discovered that my canned beans weren't beans at all, but were bean soup.  Seriously, Progresso, put the word soup a bit bigger next time.

Forgive the cell phone photo - it was an afterthought
Top right - around the corner from the brand name.  It says soup.  I've had this can for a long time.  I can't remember when I shopped somewhere that might sell Progresso beans.  Or Progresso soup, as it were.  Maybe I wanted soup, when I bought these.  I don't know.

Ok, fine, you know what, I can work with black bean soup.  So I drained a bit of the liquid and resolved to not add salt to the rest of dinner.   Drained beans/soup goes into pot with rice that has now sat covered for 15 minutes after cooking.  Stir.  Taste.  Rice is hard.  Add water and frozen cilantro.  Simmer covered.  Face some other part of dinner.

Ok, cornbread, how about that.  But I don't have any actual corn, because it's March and I've really ravaged the freezer by now.  Ok, let's find a non-corn recipe.   Thank you Good Housekeeping Cookbook.  I followed the basics in the cookbook, swapped the sugar for honey, and added half a can of diced chile peppers.   Threw that in the oven and turned to the collards, which was really what I was going to cook and photograph for the two of you who read this.

I had blanched and frozen some collards a few days ago, so I defrosted them and rolled them up.  Do you roll up your collards?  It's much easier with fresh, but you can do it with blanched collards too.  Something about cutting them into ribbons tastes better.  So you stack your leaves and roll them together into a cylinder.

And then you slice that roll and you get ribbons.

I often cook my collards in bacon fat, but I thought this time I'd use real bacon, so I got that started.

Three slices, removed from pan once done.   And it was about here that I was like, damnit I've posted my collards recipe before.   For pizza, right?  With bacon.  Nothing new to see here.  Ok, fine, that was chard, but it's the same damn recipe.

So what are my options now - keep posting a recipe I posted like two weeks ago? Boring.  Post on my black beans and rice that is actually made of soup?  I can't go all Sandra Lee on you and tell you to open two cans, mix them together and call it a recipe.  Post my cornbread out of a cookbook we all got from our mothers?  Take pictures of some more crap in my house and talk about it?

Ok, so add the collards to the bacon fat, give it a serious splash of apple cider vinegar, pinch of sugar and a few cubes of stock. 

Let that happen on med-low for a bit, and go back to your rice.  Still hard?  Swear for a minute, pour a glass of wine, add more water and recover.  I mean put the cover back on.  Also, get over it.  Recover.

When the collards are dark green and tender, sprinkle the bacon back in and give it a few minutes to heat together.

Maybe the rice is palatable now.  Oh, it is.  So that's a drained can of bean soup, cup of rice, two and half cups of water (seriously), onion, garlic, cilantro, hot sauce... simmer a damn hour or so.

Pull the cornbread out of the oven, plate and sigh.

Ok, so the collards were good, I thought, and I was surprised how well the beans worked, but I guess black bean soup is a lot like the sauce you generate by smushing some of the beans in the liquid, so that was great, but ugh that cornbread.  When I pulled it out of the oven it didn't smell like corn, or like butter, or sweet and delicious.  It smelled like flour.  Baking powder.  I don't know.  It tasted worse than it smelled.  Like a white sauce that didn't cook long enough.  It cooked plenty.  It was foul. 

So, despite the fact that this meal had been in the back of my mind for a couple of weeks, when it came time for it, stuff went wrong.  Beans weren't beans.  Old timey recipes failed.   It's ok, it's just dinner and 2/3 of it tasted good. 

click the thing you want to read about