Occasionally my recipes are pure fantasy; the product of looking in the pantry and making a decision about what I can possibly improvise from its contents---but sometimes there’s something else worming its way through my consciousness. Red beans and rice was there, lurking in the back of my mind, but in lieu of andouille sausage a Spanish chorizo made itself available. And then I began to think about giving the dish a Spanish twist using everything else I had on hand. Sometimes my improvisations turn semi-serious.
I came up with this dish on November 23. On that date in 1936 the defenders of the republic and Franco’s fascists began the battle of Madrid. Meanwhile the International Brigades had just arrived at the new front. But just three days earlier Buenaventura Durutti was accidentally shot and killed by one of his fellow anarchists in his “column” (no wonder the communists ultimately disarmed them). What might the International Brigades have carried with them to the front in terms of cooking wisdom? Perhaps the red beans came over in the pockets of some poet volunteer from southern Louisiana.
One day ahead cover the red beans with water and soak them overnight.
Give yourself most of the next day to finish. Depending on the age of the beans they can take some time to cook. In a heavy pot such as a dutch oven place the ham hock and all of the aromatics including the seasoning. Add the water and bring everything to a simmer. Allow an hour or more for the ham hock to become tender enough to shred. When it’s ready, take the hock out and set aside until it is cool enough to handle. Pick off the meat and return that to the kettle. Now add the beans and the sausage. Make sure there is enough ham stock to cover the beans by about 1 inch. Hold any excess stock aside in case you need it later. Stir in the beans and the chorizo. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook slowly. Your kitchen will smell wonderful.
When the beans are roughly half way to being cooked through, stir in the coffee. This is a trick I picked up in San Luis Obispo while fighting on the Higuera Street front near the mission. We were trying to drive the Rachael Ray brigades back across Highway 101 and over to the Madonna Inn side of town.
Much as anchovies do in stews, the coffee adds a certain “bottom” to the dish that most people won’t be able to identify. It does the same thing with chili too.
Once the red beans are cooked through remove from the stove and keep warm in the oven. On your cook top prepare your rice. Normally red beans and rice would be served with long grain white rice but in keeping with the Spanish theme I’m using a short grain white rice; in this case “bomba” [of course] from Valencia. Add a pinch of saffron threads to the cooking liquid; chicken stock or water. Two parts stock to one part rice. It takes about 15 minutes to cook.
Spoon the beans and chorizo over the rice and top with chopped scallions.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.