How do you wash rice? This is a task that has been done by billions and billions of people over millennia–so you would think we’d have found the answer by now. But it has remained elusive. Even the Internet, that larder of resolutions to human inquiry, is of no help to us here. This sushi master says we should wash our rice until the water runs clear. This blogger warns us–with the all-caps frustration of what can only be lived experience–that to the contrary, “The water actually NEVER gets clear.” Still other guidance eschews rigid steps and instead urges us to heed intuition. Roy Choi, the celebrity chef of Kogi-food-truck fame, has instructed: “The way that I clean rice is, when I wash it, I try to transfer all the ancestors and all the spirits and all the energy that surrounds my whole existence. Put that into each kernel of rice.”
All this advice can be tough to follow! So for what it’s worth, here is what I do: I wash it three times. Does this answer the lingering questions of whether that’s the right way to do it, whether it’s worth doing at all, and whether it even makes a difference? Unfortunately, no. But it feels right to me. And whatever feels right to you, I’m sure will be OK too.
Red Beans and Rice
- 1 onion diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 tbsp cayenne or other ground chili
- 8 oz kidney beans (dried is better, canned works too)
- 32 oz stock (I used dashi, chicken is good too)
- 3 links andouille sausage, sliced (or any smoked sausage)
- 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Cooking oil, salt, pepper
Also tasty but not entirely necessary:
- 1 jalapeno, diced
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1 bay leaf (idk if these actually taste like anything but they are very satisfying to add for some reason)
- Hot sauce (for these things, I am a Crystal loyalist)
- For the rice. Cook rice in a rice cooker.
- For the beans. Generously coat the bottom of a big pot in olive oil and brown the sausage on both sides over medium heat. You are just looking to crisp the sausage lightly here and don’t need to cook it through. Remove the sausage from the pot–if there is some sticking that is totally OK.
- Saute the onions, celery, and bell pepper in the same pot over medium–the pot should have a healthy amount of olive oil and rendered sausage fat. If it’s too dry, add a little more olive oil. Keep sauteeing until it’s aromatic and everything smells great. Add some salt and pepper.
- Add the garlic, cayenne, thyme, bay leaf, and jalapeno and saute for just 30 seconds or so. It should smell even better. This is an important step–when you give spices the chance to bloom in fat, they taste even better.
- Add the apple cider vinegar directly to the pot. The pot should be drier at this point and the vinegar should sizzle and bubble. Let it reduce for a minute or so. You should see the liquid start to thicken. This is also an important step–the reduced vinegar will add a brightness and sweetness that will provide balance. By reducing the vinegar, you will also cut some of its sharpness.
- Add the stock, sausage, beans, miso and a few glugs hot sauce. Make sure the beans are covered by liquid (if not, add more stock or water). Bring it all up to a gentle simmer and keep it there with the pot covered (or mostly covered), stirring occasionally, until the beans get tender and creamy. This will take anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours. You will see the liquid get thicker over this time and look richer with fat pooling in spots on the surface. This is good. Start tasting every 30 minutes or so and add some salt (and occasionally pepper) when you do. It should keep tasting better and better each time you do this and when it tastes really good, that’s when you stop adding the salt.
- (If you’re using canned beans, don’t add them at this step. First simmer the broth until it tastes good using the process described above and thickens a bit (probably about 45 mins). Then add the canned beans, which will be done within 15 minutes or so.)
- (The miso is totally optional here, but it adds depth and richness with a lighter touch than butter. If you don’t have miso, adding a pat of butter toward the end is also tasty and probably more authentic.)
- Once the beans are tender, use a wooden spoon to mash a bunch of them up. Bring the temperature up to a brisker simmer for about 15-30 minutes. Mashing the beans and turning up the heat thickens the sauce. You are looking for a gravy-like consistency and once you get there, you’re good to go.
- When the sauce is thickened, taste it one more time. If it still tastes dull, add a few more glugs of hot sauce for brightness. If it tastes bland, add more salt and pepper until it tastes good.
- Garnish with sliced scallions and eat.