Project Weeknight: Kinda-Brazilianish Beans & Rice

Since I stopped posting regularly I've had a devil of a time keeping up with new recipes I've tried, what I've liked, changes I made, and so on. I tried a new dish tonight that worked out so well that my son declared that it's going into the regular dinner rotation. I can't let this one get away!

It came to me via my friend Matt's blog* (where he linked to this recipe.) It's one of those dishes that is many times greater than the sum of its parts. Simple, fast, and delicious, just the way I like it.

Pinto beans, which we know and love, and bacon combine to almost remind one of the classic canned bean & bacon soup, always a favorite. The rice, cooked pilaf-style with onion, is a nice surprise.

I can rarely make a recipe as written, and this was no exception. Since this was our main dish, I used more bacon than called for but drained off half the fat before adding the garlic. You could omit the oil altogether and just rely on the bacon grease. I doubled the beans and added some refried beans (hey, they're pintos too!) instead of the traditional spoon-mashing step. I also used pre-cooked brown rice* I had in the freezer instead of cooking white rice from scratch, and it worked out great.

But be sure to read through the original recipe so you get the idea of how it should be done, ok? Check out Matt's blog, too, because he and his wife Holli are hilarious, adorable, and amazing. And I'm not even related to them, so you know it's true.

Geez, it's already taken me almost as long to write this as it did to make it, so let's get to it already!
Kinda-Brazilianish Beans & Rice, aka Matt Beans
via The {UN}eventful Life, adapted from Authentic Brazilian Cuisine

Serves 2, with some beans leftover.

Brazilianish Rice

1 Tablespoon oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups pre-cooked brown rice, thawed if frozen
1/4 - 1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it just starts to brown. Add rice, stir until heated through. Add water, bring to simmer. Reduce heat, partially cover, and cook (stirring occasionally) until water is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

Brazilianish Beans

1 Tablespoon oil (opt.)
2 teaspoons (1-2 cloves) minced garlic
2 (thick) or 3 (thin) slices (uncooked) bacon, diced (or even more if you're so inclined)
2 cans pinto beans, rinsed well and drained
1/4 - 1/3 can refried (pinto) beans (opt.)
1/2 - 1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat, add bacon, and cook until almost done. Add garlic, cook another minute, then add pinto beans. You can mash some -- maybe 1/4? -- of the pintos with a spoon to thicken the dish, or you can add the refried beans. Add water, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 15 minutes, longer if you have time, to let the bacon-y essence permeate those beans. Add more water if necessary to keep it from scorching. The "gravy" should be at least as thick as heavy cream. Salt and pepper to taste.
I served it with completely un-traditional grated Monterey jack cheese and diced tomato. I'd have added avocado if I'd had one. We eat a lot of faux-Mexican so I knew these familiar touches would bring the dish squarely into my son's comfort zone. And it did!

* Oh yeah, about the rice: The amount of water you'll need depends on how 'cooked' your rice is. I make large batches of brown rice, portion it in two-cup bags, and stash them in the freezer. I use a straight 2:1 water:rice (brown rice usually calls for more water) so the rice grains are intact and are not clumpy at all, just barely done, I suppose. I used 1/2 cup of water in my pilaf and probably could have used more. If your rice is fully done and the grains are "blown-out" you may have to modify the pilaf-ing of it. Or just follow the original recipe. It's all good. Oh, so good.