I’ve named this recipe Wacky Rice and Beans because of my haphazard way of cooking. Unlike my popular Migliaccio (Italian Farina Custard) recipe where I give you exact measurements for all ingredients, this dish is a bit different. It’s virtually impossible to screw it up. It’s something you can throw together with whatever you have lying around, including leftovers, and it’s so comfy on a cold, winter’s night. Best of all, one pot makes for easy clean-up.
If you’re a cook who never follows a recipe, this one will make perfect sense to you. If you’re very structured in your approach to cooking, this recipe may ultimately prove that you can be spontaneous in the kitchen. However, I recommend keeping a brown paper bag on hand to aid in any episodes of hyperventilating that may occur as you read the ingredients list.
I’m part Cuban and grew up on yummy things like rice and beans, ropa vieja, and platanos. I no longer live in a neighborhood with convenient access to such foods, so when my blood cries out for a fix, here’s what I whip up in a pinch.
6 slices of bacon (Optional: I don’t usually put this in, but a neighbor bought a Costco supply of bacon recently and shared some with us, so I had it on hand.)
½ small onion, finely chopped (or as much as you want)
Heaping teaspoonful of chopped garlic (or as much as you want)
Crushed red pepper flakes (or not)
Wine (Optional: I used red; you can use white or none at all.)
Oregano (or not)
Dried cilantro (or fresh, or none at all. See how flexible this recipe is. )
2 packets of Sazón Goya con culantro y achiote (If you just exclaimed “say what,” then I’d guess you don’t live near a city or a latino neighborhood. In that case, season to taste with salt and don’t be jealous that your rice won’t have a golden hue. It will still taste yummy.)
8 oz. can of tomato sauce
½ 14.5 oz. can of stewed, diced tomatoes with liquid (I use the kind with Italian seasoning. Hey, I’m Cuban and Italian. I have to be fair about it.)
Heaping teaspoon of Goya Sofrito (Optional: I didn’t have it on hand this time, so didn’t use it. So, if you don’t know what it is or can’t find it, no biggie.)
1 can beans with liquid (I used Goya pink beans, but you can use black, or seasoned stewed (habichuelas guisadas) pink beans, or black bean soup, or whatever you want. I’ll go out on a limb here and say if you absolutely hate beans, don’t put them into your Wacky Rice and Beans and call it Wacky Beanless Rice instead. Gasp. Shocking, I know.)
Cooked chicken (Optional: I had some leftover roasted chicken in the fridge. I cut it in cubes and threw it in. What is old is new again.)
2 cups rice
3 cups water (usually, you use twice as much water as rice, but remember we included the liquid from some of those cans and used 8 oz. of tomato sauce)
- In a covered pot (I use an enameled, cast iron Le Creuset French Oven pot, though in my younger days I used a cheap aluminum caldero from the corner discount store, which will no doubt be the cause of my future dementia), cook the bacon on medium heat and remove from pot to cool.
- If necessary, add olive oil to the pan and sauté onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes until onion is translucent.
- Add the wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up all those yummy brown bits from the bacon.
- Chop up the bacon in coarse bits and throw it in the pot.
- Add the remaining ingredients.
- If you like sticky rice, give it all a good stir. Otherwise, don’t breathe until you cover the pot.
- Once it begins simmering, turn heat down very low and cook covered until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
- Troubleshooting: If the rice isn’t tender but the liquid is all absorbed, don’t panic. Add a bit more water and continue cooking. All will be well. I promise.
You may notice that some rice is stuck to the bottom of the pan. In some latino families, a feud erupts over these highly desirable, slightly burned bits. Personally, I’m not a fan, but the Irish husband loves it.