Saturday, July 9, 2011

From Modern to Medieval: Beans and Rice

While I would love the chance to cook all my meals in a stone oven or over an open flame, I typically use my very modern appliances to prepare and cook meals. And while many medieval recipes come out of my modern kitchen, they are certainly not the majority. I'm a Southerner, born and raised, and I love to cook all kinds of foods. Tonight, it'll be red beans with sausage and rice. I thought I'd share this recipe with you too. And once you know how to make it, I'll turn it around into a medieval dish too! I suppose that would be reverse redaction...that sounds far too complicated! LOL Enjoy both options!

Red Beans and Rice

For the rice, I have to admit I love a boxed one here. Zatarain's Yellow Rice is a favorite, and it goes beautifully with this dish. You can definitely make white rice and it would be delicious. For the Zatarain's, just follow the directions on the box. For white rice, use the directions...typically you use one cup of rice to two cups of water.

Soak red kidney beans overnight or at least a couple of hours in hot water. Drain them and rinse them. In a crock pot (6 hrs.) or on the stove (just a couple of hours) put:

soaked beans- about 1/2 lb.
*1 can beef broth (about 2 c. homemade)
*1 can tomato sauce  (about 2 c. homemade) OR a can of diced tomatoes w/ juice    and a small can of tomato paste
*1 ham hock, leftover pork roast bone or lamb bone
 *bacon & grease- this is optional if you want to use olive oil without the meat, but  I recommend crumbling the cooked bacon into the beans and use all the grease for  the onions, peppers, celery and garlic
*a couple of tablespoons of Old Bay (or your favorite Cajun seasoning)
*a good tablespoon of black pepper
*a few good shots of Tabasco or Durkee or Frank's hot sauce (and more once it's     in the bowl if you like!)

In a skillet on the stove-top, heat up a couple of tablespoons of bacon grease or olive oil. Add one or two chopped onions to the oil and stir well. Toss in a couple of crushed cloves of garlic, 2-3 chopped celery ribs and 2 chopped bell peppers.

Add a 1/2 lb to a lb. of sliced sausage; you can use andouille, kielbasa, or whatever you have! You can add in leftover beef or pork, and even chicken is good. Brown it all just a bit, then toss it in with the beans, oil and all.

Top it off with water, and keep an eye on it, adding water as needed.  Stir it now and then. As the beans get closer to being done, stop adding water. Let it thicken, or you can add a bit of tomato paste to thicken it at the end if needed.

Serve it over hot white or yellow rice. It's SOOOO good.

Now, to turn this into a medieval dish. We have all the right ingredients:

*celery, peppers, onions, garlic
*olive oil
*meat bone, likely would have been pork or lamb
*bacon/pork grease- you'll need to cook about 1/3 lb. of bacon and then crumble
*rice, and the turmeric to  create the yellow color as well as saffron for flavor
*water, stock or broth

The only non-medieval ingredient on my list is the tomato sauce. Tomatoes came to Europe with adventurers returning from the Americas in the 1500s, and even then they were considered poisonous because of their red color. The leaves of the plant are actually poisonous, as tomatoes belong to the nightshade family. They were originally grown in Europe as ornamental plants. There was a deadly problem however, as the acid in the tomatoes increased the leeching of lead out of plates and often the wealthy with their lead-ridden plates were falling dead, and they believed it was the tomatoes that did the deed. Once Italian cooks started making pizza with tomato sauce, all of Europe figured it out - tomatoes are tasty.

You could also add in cubed potatoes, carrots, leeks, turnips, greens, or whatever else you have in the house. Of course, potatoes aren't medieval either, but we've already covered that as I recall. A pot of beans with a little seasoning makes a fine meal, but add in some other veggies and have a pot of soup. To thicken it, use a handful of breadcrumbs or mix up a roux. For a quicker, more modern thickener for soups, stews and beans is instant potatoes. The flakes thicken the liquid and add a complimentary flavor to the dish. Not in a medieval pot, though!!

Food today isn't all that different from food hundreds of years ago. We still use beans in cooking, and they provide an excellent source of protein that we need. Beans are the go-to food for many folks, especially in economic times like these.
They are cheap, easy to prepare, and you can use a wide variety of veggies and spices, herbs and sauces, to add to the flavor.

I hope you enjoy these easy meals, and I hope you try your own versions! I wish I had my camera...I'd post pics! My camera is in Boston with my son. So send me your pics!

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