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Rapha Cooks: Rice and Beans
Our newest monthly installment comes in the form of a recipe. We all know that food is an integral part of the cycling lifestyle so we thought, why not enhance that with a little help from our friends. Matt Card could definitely be called a "man about town". A chef, writer and cyclist of immeasurable strength he was the perfect person to turn to for this column. Matt's culinarily geared writing can be found within the pages of not only local publications such as The Oregonian and the Mix but also with a national appeal in publications such as Cooks Illustrated and soon enough, Bicycling Magazine. Enjoy.
Words and Recipe by Matt Card
As competitive cyclists, we spend an inordinate amount of time consuming calories to fuel our riding and racing, yet few of us devote much time, or all that much thought, to preparing it. I’m a food writer by trade and bike nut by providence, so my passions are equally divided: I spend my time on the bike planning the recovery meal and my time in the kitchen thinking about the ride ahead.
And let’s start at square one: beans and rice. Properly cooked, creamy textured Latin-style beans, suffused with spices and pork, can be revelatory. And cheap too—meaning you’ll have more money for the blingy bits and carbon tchotckes your bike demands.
A perfect pot of beans doesn’t take all that much effort, but it does take thought. It begins with dried beans (canned beans are fine to puree for refried beans, but they won’t absorb much flavor or maintain their shape through a long, steady simmer). In most instances, I’m inclined towards pinto beans, which are inexpensive, thin-skinned, and cook to a particularly creamy texture. Once rinsed, soak the beans for a night or two in abundant water to ensure even hydration. While you can cook beans from their dried state, it’s a dodgy proposition best avoided.
Legumes are at their best when paired with pork—sorry vegetarians, but its true. I’ll typically add a smoked hock or, better yet, a fresh split foot—available at most markets. The foot is packed with flavor, fat, and gelatin, all of which go far in enriching the beans and broth with a silky and resonant flavor (if you can find neither, simmer a couple strips of bacon with the beans, then remove before serving).
To round out the edges, I’ll throw in a handful of chopped onion and garlic, a spoonful of cumin seeds, maybe some Mexican oregano or epazote (for both its flavor and carminative properties), a bay leaf or two, and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar (or piloncillo, raw Mexican sugar). Top with water, bring to a simmer, and slide into a low oven to bubble away—as you pile on the base miles. Four hours should do it, though there’s nothing wrong with an hour or three more if the ride is good.
The best pot of beans still needs some help. Cilantro and lime juice contribute clarity and crumbly asadero or cotija cheese and sour cream some much-needed fat. Salsa and guacamole certainly help, but my favorite condiment is pickled red onions and carrots, a riff on the more classic jalapeno and carrot relish. The crunch and acidity beautifully offset the bean’s starchiness, much less the vibrant coloring perks up their otherwise drab coloring. While I’ll serve the beans over regular white or green rice (puree a head of cilantro, a whole jalapeno, and a couple cloves of garlic in the water used for cooking the rice, proceed as directed), brown rice tastes good too and is arguably a whole lot healthier.
Braised Pinto Beans
Serves 4 to 6
Look for dried beans that are smooth and shiny; a cracked or dull-looking surface can indicate age or improper storage, which can lead to uneven cooking. If you must skip the pig’s foot, add 2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. For refried beans, simply puree beans and sauté in olive oil or bacon fat with minced garlic and chili powder or paprika.
- 1 pound dried pinto beans, sorted well, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
- 1 smoked ham hock or fresh pig’s foot (split)
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- ½ medium onion (white, yellow, or red), minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried epazote or Mexican oregano
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 5 ½ cups water
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Lime juice
- Pickled red onions (recipe follows)
- Lime wedges
- Sour cream
- Cotija or asadero cheese
- Tortillas, toasted over a gas flame or warmed in damp towel
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Combine beans, smoked hock or pig’s foot, garlic, onion, herbs, bay leaf, cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, sugar, and 5 cups water in large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then cover and transfer to oven. Cook until beans are tender, 2 to 3 hours. Uncover pot, return to oven, and cook until liquid has thickened, and beans are very creamy, 1 to 2 hours longer. Add cilantro, season with lime juice and salt as needed, and serve with desired accompaniments.
Pickled Red Onions and Carrots
Serves 4 to 6
Serve these on top of beans, tucked into quesadillas or burritos, or in all manner of sandwiches. The pickling liquid is a flavorful base for vinaigrettes.
- ¾ cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 fresh Serrano or Bird’s Eye chile, sliced thin
- 3 Bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
- 2 cloves
- 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin
- 1 medium carrot, sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices
Bring all ingredients but onion to boil over medium-high heat in small saucepan. Add onion and carrot, return to boil, and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate until cooled.
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