Sunday, July 18, 2010

How I Make Beans

So if you're reading this, there's a good chance you live in Brazil, and an even greater chance that, even if you don't live here, you know how to make beans, Brazil style. But per Jim's request, I'm posting the way I make beans, just in case it can help anyone out.

My personal bean recipe is a combination of lessons from 3 different Brazilian women, internet recipes, and personal preference. Making beans is time-consuming, but not that difficult.

Before you read what I do, check out Julie's recipe (she uses black beans and adds bacon), and then, when you're ready to start your own beans, check out this website, which has helpful pictures and tips on getting started.

Most people prefer to cook beans with the pressure cooker, because it's faster, but my pressure cooker is broken. The only change to the recipe is that you leave them cooking for a long time and stir them occasionally.

And now, my bean recipe:

You will need:

1. 2 cups of beans! I buy feij√£o carioca here.
2. A couple of tablespoons of cooking oil
3. About 1/3 of an onion (a Brazilian-sized onion, so like 1/5 of a giant American onion)
4. A couple teaspoons of garlic (I use alho picado in the little tub. I actually prefer it to regular garlic because, duh, it's already chopped up and ready to go, but also because it's not as harsh and overpowering as fresh garlic)
5. 1 caldo de frango (chicken bullion) cube  (I'm addicted to these things, if you haven't noticed by now)
6. A bit of cilantro
7. A lot of salt and pepper

What I do:

1. I soak the beans for at least 5 hours. Julie says that she has had success boiling them when she forgets to soak them, but I didn't have much luck with that.  Soak them with 3 parts water to 1 part beans, at least. You can't soak them in too much water, but you can soak them in not enough water. They expand, ok?

2.  I drain the soaked beans and wash them off.

3. When I'm ready to cook the beans, I put the oil in the pot with all of the ingredients except for the beans. The portions are pretty much your preference. If you like a lot of garlic, put more. If you don't like it, put less. You can add in whatever spices or seasonings that you like. The possibilities are endless. There are no rules, really.

4. I fry up the ingredients for just a few minutes to heat everything up, and then I add in the beans. I mix the still-uncooked beans with all the things in the pot so that everything is spread around with the beans and not stuck to the bottom.  Some websites say that adding salt at this point is bad and dries out the beans, but I've tried adding salt at all different points in the recipe, and I don't notice a difference.

5. Then I add in the water. Again, it's about 3 parts water to 1 part beans. It's better to add too much than not enough, because you can drain it, or you can leave it (if you're one of those people who like a lot of liquid with the beans... I'm not, so I usually put in a little less than 3 parts water, especially if I have 2 cups of beans instead of 1).

6. I mix up the water and the beans and add a bunch of salt and pepper.

7. Then I leave the beans to cook, stirring occasionally. The site above has guidelines for how long to expect to spend cooking the beans based on the type of bean, whether or not you have a pressure cooker, and how much you're cooking.

8. As you're cooking, taste the beans every once in a while to see if you need any more seasonings and to see if they're soft enough.  You'll know when they're ready. That's kind of why I prefer cooking beans in a regular pan-- you can check on it without possibly dying. (However, I've never made beans with a pressure cooker that wasn't broken, so maybe I'll prefer it once I buy a good one.)

That's it! Enjoy! Please share your variations and preferences!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Roasted Chicken, All By Myself!

I am so proud of myself. This was our dinner last night:

That's right, folks! I roasted a chicken, all by myself. Well, Alexandre helped a bit. He had the smart idea of putting the chicken breast-side up, and he gave some tips (i.e. told me which things he didn't want, like "not too much garlic!"). The recipe was time consuming, but was actually surprisingly easy.

I followed this recipe here:
You may see my picture, because I submitted it. :)
I changed the recipe a bit because our oven is so tiny. Since I had to cook it for 2 hours, I turned the pan around after 1 hour. At the 1-hour mark, we also added some more sauce (just a mix of soy sauce and water) to make it more juicy.

The recipe has one sauce (which, when roasting chicken, is apparently called a "rub"), which I made and used, but I found a recipe for another rub that I mixed in, too (I'm all about extra sauces and spices!). This is the other recipe for the rub (ignore the weird picture):

If you've never roasted a chicken before, this page has tips on preparing the chicken beforehand (like soaking it in salt water, which is called "brining"):

We enjoyed our chicken and potato mix with champagne, Italian bread, and a not-so-yummy olive oil sauce that I tried to make. I was trying to remember a friend's recipe, but I did something wrong. When I get the real one, I'll put it here.

The only problem is that it makes a LOT of chicken for only 2 people. Looks like we're gonna be eating chicken and potatoes all week. You may even say that, by the end of the week, we'll be.... chickened out! har har har.

If anyone has any tips, let me know! I'll try again next time we have company.