Basic Beans

There are times of the year when every week one meal is basic beans. It’s a crockpot dish, and it’s pretty close to the easiest meal I know — especially for those who have to work all day.

You need your 4- or 5-quart (or larger) crockpot.
A pound of pinto beans.
A quarter pound of bacon or salt pork.
Optionally, a chopped onion.
Optionally, one bay leaf.
Lots and lots of water.

Total time: 24-30 hours.

“wait, what? I thought this was LOW effort, you ask?” It is.

Let’s assume you want this tomorrow night. Today, clean your beans. That is, pour out a few at a time, pick out rocks (they inevitably get included) and bad beans (you’ll know it when you see it, really), and put the beans in another container.

This evening, after work but before bed, start your beans soaking. Rinse them well and put them in your crockpot. Add enough water to cover them by about two inches. Put the lid on your pot but do NOT turn it on. If you want to save some time you can chop an onion and add it now.

Next morning while starting your morning coffee, check the beans. Drop in a chopped onion if you want (and didn’t last night). Add a bay leaf if you want. Add the salt pork or bacon, and no you do not have to chop or separate it, just add the big chunk. Add enough water to cover the beans by an inch or two — they’ll have swelled overnight. Put on the lid and turn the pot on to low heat.

That night, you’ve got beans. Now you can make something to go with — I like a cornbread and the half hour of mix and bake isn’t that big a deal to me. But the beans are pretty filling as is.

Now once you’ve mastered basic beans (snicker) you can go to something a bit fancier but which still takes very little additional effort — red beans and rice.

You’re going to make a pot of beans, just as before, with two changes. Change one is that you’re going to use kidney beans instead of pinto. Change two is the meat. You’re going to use andouille or chorizo sausage instead of salt pork or bacon. You can instead/also, if you have it, add pickled pork. (You can make your own. Or you can pick some up in most supermarket snack sections.)

When you get home you DO have one bit of extra effort. You need to make rice. Now before you throw up your hands you can look at my advice last time, but I’m going to give you the key elements here as well. 2 cups of water and 1 cup of rice into a two quart casserole dish, without lid. Microwave it for 11 minutes. Now I’ve had microwaves be done as soon as 9 minutes and others go 12, but 11 works the first time most of the time. The rice will be good – not great, but good. And if you go directly to the kitchen and start it, you can then go take off shoes and relax while supper is finishing.

Get your bowl, put some rice in the bottom, and spoon some beans and meat over the top.

And then ponder what spices you’ll add next time. Maybe some minced carrots and celery to go with the onion? A bit of file, perhaps, as you get ready to eat? Some more bite by tossing in a bit of cayenne?

It’s your meal, enjoy it. And do so with not much effort at all.

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