Monday, January 28, 2013

My First Guest Reviewer - Red Beans and Rice

     A few weeks ago I had a friend coming over to hang out on a Wednesday. He's been following my blog, so he knew he was taking a chance by coming on a vegetarian night and I was a bit nervous cooking for someone besides my daughter when I'm still obviously struggling through this vegetarian thing. I've been getting more hits than misses (in my opinion, not in my daughter's) but every once in while a dish will fail or need some tweaking. Nevertheless, I went out shopping after my training session to find something to inspire me.

     It is a very rare thing for me to go to Trader Joe's but everyone keeps telling me that I have to try their soy chorizo, so I went out to pick up a pack. After a bit of hunting around the store I leave with some soy chorizo and a new found love for that store. I'm going to have to make it a habit to bring my wallet to the gym so I can hit that place up after my workout. It's just a bit too far from my home otherwise especially with two chain stores within a mile from my house... yes I am that lazy when it come to grocery shopping.

     From TJ's I head home to figure out what the heck I'm going to make. I had no idea what kind of groceries I was sitting on at that point so I wanted to do an inventory before picking anything else up. Turns out I had a whole lot of not much. A little bit of brown rice, some risotto rice... that's about it. My cooking habits tend to leave little in the way of partial anything. So I do a quick search on vegetarian red bean recipes   and hit up my local store to get the rest of dinner.

     Turns out 'good' red beans take a day or more to make, what with soaking the beans and all. I cheated and bought a couple of cans instead. Though, come to find out a few brands add bacon without putting that information on the front. Good thing I've been a label reader for the past year plus, otherwise I might have accidentally ate bacon (mmmm... it would be a tasty accident though). Also grabbed a can of crushed tomatoes and the holy trinity of veggies (onion, green pepper, celery). Then it was some to get started on a dish that I should have started hours ago.

     I didn't follow a recipe when it came to the actual making of the red beans. Just kinda took the veggies, sauteed them up with some garlic, mixed them with the beans and tomatoes, then put the whole mix into a large casserole dish and into the oven at 300 to let it simmer until dinner. The whole point is to cook the beans until they start to break apart. Mine just didn't have that sort of time though. Next time. Maybe.

    The chorizo itself was a bit weird to work with. I've never worked with a sausage type meat that didn't either hold its shape or have an edible casing. This stuff has to be removed from its plastic casing and then just falls apart to a ground meat like appearance. As I said, strange. I was kind of hoping to have slices of meat-like goodness, oh well.

Looks like dinner to me

     As I'm cooking, my friend arrives and is quite eager to try out what I made fore dinner. Turns out he is a huge fan of chorizo and is quite curious about this impostor. With a stroke of luck (and some mad kitchen skills) my rice finishes up at the same time as the chorizo and dinner is ready. We all layer our bowls with proportions we find pleasing, toss some cheese on top, and dig in.

     Individually, everything was pretty good. As I said, maybe the red beans could have cooked longer, but they tasted pretty good. The chorizo was spicy and very meat like, I'm sure it would fool an unsuspecting taste tester. Mixed all together with a bite of everything though, and this dish was awesome. Thumbs up from me, thumbs up from my friend, and an almost up thumb from my daughter. It was a bit spicy for her. 

     This is one dish that I happily ate away at the leftovers for a few days. I even ended up sharing some with my Dad, and he liked it as well. Though, by that point the dish had morphed slightly. I had mixed everything together and added a can of crushed tomatoes to help cut down on the spice. So it was maybe a bit more chili like by that point. Which my Dad is a fan of for sure. Even though I just fished this dish off a few days ago I'm considering a similar dish for the upcoming Superbowl... even though it isn't on a Monday or Wednesday. That's how much I like this meal.

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