Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Easy Black Beans with Smoked Sausage

A traditional meal in the Carioca, that is to say Rio de Janeiro - area of Brazil, black beans with smoked sausage and rice is a tasty staple that will fill you up and bring you comfort.

Moving on is about discovering new places and making new friends. But it is also about finding homes in your new house for memorabilia and treasures from past lives. I have always told my girls that home is where we are together. But, for me, home is also where the special things are.

My mother and my mother-in-law are both collectors of treasure. I saw their houses from a young age (yes, I was friends with my mother-in-law before I started dating her son) and, while the things they had amassed were beautiful, I vowed quietly to myself that I would be more cautious. I would choose a piece or two from each place we lived and make that piece count. I don’t mean to imply that all of their things weren’t special, just that I was looking for a simpler, less cluttered life.

Our first overseas move was Singapore but we didn’t get a shipment and, frankly, we had all kinds of furniture already from the Far East since dear husband came to the relationship with Korean hibachi tables and Chinese cabinets with tiny drawers, a carved wooden Indian room divider screen and even a big Chinese gong.

Our second posting was Sydney and we bought one item: an antique over-mantel piece with a small stained glass cabinet. It cost as much to ship back to the US as it did to buy it. Worth ever penny.

Our purchases in the next location, Abu Dhabi, were primarily Persian carpets. The first was a 3ft x 5ft Tabriz that cost us US$800. A fortune in those days, the last of the ‘80s, for two kids just out of university a few years. The carpet had an identical twin, very unusual, and it is one of our regrets that we didn’t buy them both. But, Lordy, $800 for one! Two was unthinkable! We still kick ourselves over that decision, almost 30 years on.

We moved around for the next few years, judicially, carefully, adding “recuerdos” to our collection. An antique Dutch clock in Balikpapan, Indonesia and a small elegant chandelier from the March√© aux Puces in Paris. Then for five and a half years we called Brazil home.

Early on, I saw a dish I wanted, coveted in Biblical proportions. I confess that sin. Although I guess, technically, it did not belong to my neighbor. Instead, it was at a pottery shop, an hour or two from my house, en route elsewhere, so I wasn’t tortured unduly.

This dish was large! Almost 24 inches from end to end, in a big, brightly colored, hand-painted oval design of peaceful blues and greens. Boy, did I want it. But we all have limits on what we will pay for something. This dish, more that 20 years ago, was beyond my comfort zone at US$100, especially for something decorative, because I could not imagine ever baking anything in a dish so large and pretty. 

So I went back occasionally to visit it and lusted. Through those years, and the magic of devaluation the real fell to almost 50 percent of its initial inflated value and, just before we moved from Brazil, the dish was mine. It has had pride of place in our living room since then.

Until now.

The movers in Kuala Lumpur were simply not careful enough in packing this up for our move to Egypt.

When my heart is heavy, I cook. The only meal appropriate after the discovery of the devastation was black beans with sausage and rice. I had to celebrate Brazil and bring back a happy memory because this one was so painful. Yes, I know it was only a thing, but it represented so much more. A wish fulfilled, a country missed.

Easy Black Beans with Smoked Sausage

In Brazil, beans and rice accompany almost any other dish that might be served. Lasagna for dinner, also beans and rice. Fried chicken, beans and rice on the side. Grilled meats, bring on the beans. We found it most extraordinary when we arrived, but we came to realize that unless there were beans and rice to fill you up, it just wasn't really considered a complete meal there. 

16 oz bag or a little less than 1/2 kilo dried black beans (If your bag is 500g, not problem, just hum th whole thing in.)
At least 14 oz or 400g smoked sausage (More is more in this case!)
4-5 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
Sea salt
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
14 oz or 398g can cooked black beans

To serve: White rice cooked following package instructions or your favorite method.

Pick carefully through the dried black beans removing any stones or clumps of dirt. Even the best brands have them, so do not skip this step.  Best case scenario if you miss a clump, is gritty beans. Worst case scenario if you miss a stone is a trip to the dentist with a broken tooth.

All the stones and clumps I found, with one bean for comparison.
Rinse the beans with some warm water and drain.

Slice the sausage into 1cm or 1/2 inch rounds.

Add the beans, garlic, bay leaves and sausage to your pressure cooker.

Eye the pot and add twice as much cold water as you have beans. Add about a teaspoon of salt and a good sprinkle of both peppers. Some smoked sausages are saltier than others so we don’t want to add too much actual salt right at the beginning.

N.B. If you are watching your salt intake, wait till the beans are cooked to add the salt. For those who don't use much salt, the seasonings from the sausage may be enough for you.

Put the lid on the pressure cooker and heat on high until it starts to make that loud ch-ch-ch noise that means it is boiling and under pressure. Turn the heat down till the ch-ch is just a gentle chug of a slow train.

Cook like this for about 35-40 minutes and then remove the pressure cooker from the heat. Allow it to cool until it is safe to open. Give the beans a good stir.

Put the pressure cooker back on the stove on a medium heat, without the lid, and cook to reduce the liquid by one or two inches or two to four centimeters and to finish cooking the beans.

Meanwhile, rinse the canned beans in some cool water and mash them completely with a potato masher. (You could also choose to cook a few more ounces or grams of beans and scoop the extra out with a slotted spoon and mash them. I find this easier because one whole bag plus one whole can makes the perfect thickness for me.)

Add them into the pressure cooker and stir vigorously to incorporate them. This will thicken the bean mixture.

Check the seasonings and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve over white rice with hot sauce on the side for those who want some extra spice.


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  1. I'd never really thought to use canned black beans with dried. Interesting idea!

  2. You can cook more beans, Deanna, and take some out to mash and thicken the dish, but using a one rinsed can of beans per one pound bag of dried beans has been the perfect mix for me. Of course, I discovered this completely by accident. The beans were runny and I had a can in the cupboard. I've done it this way ever since.

    By the way, love your blog. I will be buying a brioche pan because of you. :)


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