#CoronaCooking, or Starting Again
I wrote this blog devotedly from about 2012 to about 2015. I started it on a whim. I had decided to quit academia, and wanted to be a writer—it was a way for me to unlearn my worst habits of writing in that genre, and learn to write in other ways. To tell stories, not make arguments. To conjecture, not prove. (I also did corporate writing for an evil law firm, social media marketing, ghostwriting, and brand journalism to pay the bills—I was trying to get as far from my past as I could get.) Even though I wrote a lot about relationships and their failures, that's not why I characterize Kitchen Flânerie as therapeutic—it was this other, writerly restoration that I was seeking.
I petered out after some time, which was probably a normal course of events. I was doing other things, and felt a little like a cliché—another middle-aged woman with a food blog. But I had also decided to move back into writing about art, though in a very different way than I had in the past, and somehow the two things didn't naturally jibe in my mind. It had to be one or the other.
Now, in this moment of uncertainty—global uncertainty, uncertainty about my own and our species' future—I'm unable to think about art. I'm in the house, needing to futz around and keep my hands busy, and I want to create comfort for my kid and my boyfriend and my almost-sister who lives a few blocks away. So I'm cooking, again. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it as the days pass, but for now I'll just get straight to a recipe. I'm cooking out of my freezer, pantry, and preserves from last summer—a more robustly stocked larder than most, I'll admit, but nothing too exotic, I promise
Red Beans and Rice
If you're going to cook this dish, might as well cook a mess of it. You won't be having any dinner parties in this time of social distancing, but it freezes really well—nothing easier than heating it up and spooning it over some steamed white rice.
1 lb red beans (I used a mix of kidney beans from the supermarket and Domingo Rojo beans from Rancho Gordo)
2 TB olive oil or other oil of your choice
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 large or 2 small stalks celery, diced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tsp red chili powder (straight up, unadulterated red chili, not the spice mix you use to make chili con carne)
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 large smoked ham hock
1 quart water
1. Soak red beans for 2 hrs or longer (if you use Rancho Gordo beans, you don't have to soak).
2. If you're using a pressure cooker, like I do: heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic, and sauté till translucent. Add chili powder, thyme, bay leaves and Worcdestershire sauce. Add the ham hock to the pot along with the drained red beans and water. (The water should cover the contents of the pot.) Add 1 tsp kosher salt. Cover the pressure cooker, bring up to pressure, lower the heat, and cook for 1 hr. Turn off heat and let pressure reduce naturally.
If you're using a conventional, heavy pot (a Dutch oven or similar): Follow the same instructions. Cover the pot, bring up to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for about 3 hrs.
3. When your cooking time is done, open the pot and remove the ham hock—it should be falling apart tender. Put it on a cutting board and whenever it's cool enough to handle, pull off the meat, discarding the fat and rind. Chop meat up into bite sized pieces and add back to the pot.
4. Test the beans—they should be completely tender. If not, simmer for a few more minutes until they are. Add salt if necessary.
5. Serve over steamed white rice with a good hot sauce on the side.