Cable television has always been a staple in my life, one of those “non-negotiable” sorts of things. I’ve always had some form of cable (Comcast up to a couple of years ago, then DirecTV…yes, I know that’s satellite) even when I was a young child, and it was never even a question whether Philip and I were going to shell out the cash for it.
About six months or so ago, we started questioning how necessary it was. We had over 300 channels in our package, plus music and pay-per-views (we never paid for any views) but we probably only watched about ten channels on a regular basis. And we were paying a fair amount for it….so we started asking, “Can we live without it?” And thus began the research. After some difficult discussions and soul-searching (I am only half-joking!) I decided I could live without Food Network and Cooking Channel (we also lost a few other favorites, like Fashion Police, The Soup, and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding).
We are now the proud owners of a streaming media player and an antenna. I can’t even remember the last time that I watched antenna television, but it’s made me realize that I missed out on many years of great cooking shows on PBS: America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country, to be specific (and, of course, Julia Child, although I did watch her pretty regularly on PBS as well as Cooking Channel).
In case you are not familiar, America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country are “from the creators of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine”. They’ve been around for years (I found an ATK cookbook at a used bookstore with every recipe from their first 10 seasons. Score!). They do exactly what the name “America’s Test Kitchen” implies: they test recipes to try to find the best ways to make pretty much everything imaginable. Plus, they test all sorts of kitchen appliances and food products and make recommendations based on quality, cost, taste, etc. These two shows are pretty much the best (well, besides Good Eats…still love Alton!) and they have more than filled the gap left by Food Network and Cooking Channel.
One of the episodes of America’s Test Kitchen that I watched recently included a recipe for black beans and rice. It looked delicious, so I decided to make it. My recipe isn’t exactly the same….I cooked my beans in the Crock-Pot and refused to turn on my oven to bake the dish (since it was 104 degrees outside and all). I made a few other adjustments to the recipe…but the basic idea belongs to America’s Test Kitchen. These are the best black beans & rice I’ve ever had (especially served with my jalapeno & smoked cheddar cornbread). And easy!
By the way, I cook a full pound of beans for this. I figure….if I’m cooking beans, why not cook extra to freeze? Beans of all sorts are great to have in my freezer in 1-cup containers!
Yield: 6 servings
20 minPrep Time:
50 minCook Time:
- 1lb black beans (picked through and rinsed)
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 2 bell peppers (any color)
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium storebought)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4oz bacon (sliced)
- 1 1/2 cup long-grain white rice (rinsed in a colander until the water runs clear)
- 1 avocado (sliced (optional)
- 2 scallions (sliced (optional)
- 1 lime (cut into 8 wedges)
- Soak the beans overnight in 4 quarts of cold water with 3 tablespoons salt. Drain and rinse; place in Crock-Pot along with 1/2 of a pepper, 1/2 of the onion, and the bay leaves. Cover with three cups of water and the chicken stock. Cook for eight hours.
- Remove three cups of the beans and freeze or reserve for another use. Remove 2 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside. Discard of the pepper, onion, and bay leaves and drain the remaining beans; set aside until ready to use.
- Cook the bacon in a small pot (I used a 4-quart dutch oven) in the olive oil over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered out. Chop the remaining peppers and onion and cook 5-10 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic during the last 30 seconds of cooking.
- Add the rice to the bacon and vegetables and saute for about a minute, then add the reserved bean cooking liquid. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low or medium-low and cover. Cook until water is completely absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir in reserved black beans and salt/pepper to taste.
- Serve topped with avocado, sliced scallions, and lime wedges.
Cook time does not include time to cook the beans in the slow cooker.
Click here to print the recipe for black beans & rice!