Here’s how to have a festive feast for a crowd of twenty, at about $2 per person. The extremely generous sales at the grocery store this week were fantastic. On the menu I have black beans, brown rice with lime and cilantro, shredded chicken quesadilla tacos, spicy corn dip, chips and guacamole.
No-soak Spiced Black Beans
Chop a couple onions, saute in olive oil till tender. Rinse two pounds of black beans, add to pot along with 12 cups of water. Add in 2-3 T. cumin, several shakes of crushed red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. I purchase bay leaves from an Indian grocery, which is a very affordable option. I don’t recommend using the tiny leaves from the expensive grocery store bottles here in this recipe–it just costs too much for the flavor you would get out of it, but tossing in several affordable leaves is worth it. Bring to a simmer. Cook on low to medium low for 3.5 to 4 hours. Alternatively, bake in oven at around 300 degrees. Add more water if needed. Add salt to taste.
Of course this can be done in a slow cooker or instant pot; however, I find that the stove top or oven method makes a thicker black bean gravy. Also, if you use the slow cooker you’ll have to saute your onions in a separate pan unless you are keen on that sulphurous raw onion taste (I’m not). Here’s the thing about stove-top or oven cooking: you get to smell the delicious beans cooking for the whole afternoon. Not so at all with the instant pot and less so with a crock pot on slow.
Do you need to soak your black beans? No. I’ve made black beans with this method more times than I can count now. They turn out great every time. Do you need chicken broth? No. Do you need expensive bay leaves? No. Gosh, these beans turn out great if all you have is onion and salt. Really. And you could probably get away with just salt.
Shredded Chicken Quesadilla Tacos
Place chicken breasts in an oven-safe pot with a lid. Pour over a jar of salsa or a couple cans of tomatoes with jalapenos. Bake at 300 until the chicken is shreddable, probably about 2 hours, maybe more. Shred chicken and keep warm. When guests arrive, make quesadillas with corn tortillas and a small amount of cheddar cheese. To serve, place a few tablespoons shredded chicken in the quesadilla, top with lime and cilantro, guac and sour cream and spicy salsa. The advantage of making quesadillas over just setting out warmed corn tortillas is that the quesadilla wraps and rolls so nicely. It doesn’t fall apart like a plain corn tortilla would.
Brown Rice with Lime and Cilantro
Typically I make brown rice with just water, rice and salt, but tonight I added other flavors. I sauteed the rice in a bit of olive oil, then added some homemade chicken broth I had saved back. I added a fair bit of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. At 20 minutes, let the rice stand with the heat off and the lid on for another 20 minutes. After the rice was cooked, I stirred in chopped cilantro and squeezed over some lime. I did ask my guests how folks felt about cilantro; for some it tastes like soap and I didn’t want to ruin the rice for them. Lucky for me, everybody was a cilantro tolerator. For a crowd of twenty, I made 3 cups dry brown rice in 6 cups of broth and had to add some water as the process went on because I used the unlucky pot instead of my usual one. Brown rice can be tricky, but is usually salvageable if disaster looms.
Spicy Corn Dip
Go big or go home. This is the double batch. It’s pointless to make a single.
While two cans of fiesta corn and two cans of rotel drain thoroughly in a strainer, chop up two packages of green onions, a half a green pepper, and shred 16 oz. of cheddar cheese. Combine the veggies and cheese in a large bowl. Now begin to add equal spoonfuls of sour cream and mayo, a little at a time. The concept is that you are only trying to make the dip hold together nicely with the sour cream and mayo–you don’t want a soup. Season with garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Let it sit and then add more cayenne if needed. You’ll have to open a bag of chips to sample it as you go along. Sure hate to serve guests poorly flavored corn dip…….
Finely mince 2 jalapenos, 1/4 c. onion, 1 clove garlic, cherry tomatoes. Chop avocado. Smash together with a fork, leaving some nice avocado chunks. Squeeze over some lime. Add salt to taste.