Many Latin American and Caribbean countries have their take on rice and beans cooked together. In Jamaica, they’re made with red kidney beans and are called “rice and peas,” while in Puerto Rico they are made with pigeon peas and are the island’s signature dish, “arroz con gandules.” In Cuba they use black beans (“frijoles negros”) and I am sure that other nations have their own take.
Northeastern Brazilians call the mix “baião de dois,” and the dish is basically made with blackeye peas and sometimes coconut milk. Different cooks add their own twist to it, like adding fresh cheese, dried beef or even butter, depending on what it’s being served with. It is mostly a side dish there, but I always loved having it as a main course with a side of vegetables or farofa, a local concoction made with yucca flour (more on that later)
When I met Renata, I introduced her to “baião” as a side, but she never really warmed up to it as a main course because she thought there was not much to it. I used creativity and started adding a few things here and there to enhance it until I found the perfect balance. The first thing that worked was taking the Cubans’ lead and using black beans, which have a stronger, earthy flavor. Next step was to find the perfect ingredient to make this a full-fledged main dish. The answer came – of all places – from Poland via turkey kielbasa.
The smoked sausage from Renata’s native land proved to have just the right personality to become part of such a tropical Latin dish. Since it does not have the spices found in chorizo or Italian sausage, it does not overpower the other ingredients. After that came the idea of adding diced tomatoes for a richer, more robust look and taste. It is very simple to make, quick to cook and totally delicious.
“Polka de Três”
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup white rice
¾ lb. turkey polska kielbasa, sliced
1 14 oz. can black beans
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ to 2 cups vegetable stock
Chopped cilantro, sea salt and black pepper to taste
A dash of hot pepper sauce (optional)
½ cup of coconut milk (optional)
Heat the oil and add the kielbasa. Stir-fry until browned. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and let it reduce for about 3 min. Stir in the rice, cilantro, salt and black pepper, optional red pepper sauce and vegetable stock. Cover and let simmer in low heat, stirring occasionally as not to allow the rice to stick to bottom of the pan. Cook until rice is tender (you might need to add a little more stock) and remove from heat. Let it stand, covered, until liquid is absorbed. If desired, stir in coconut milk, let the rice absorb it and serve.
Farofa is basically yucca flour (easily found in Brazilian markets, but it can be substituted with farina) that is mixed with drippings from chicken, beef or other fat-rich dishes. Since this is not the case here, you can melt about 1 tbsp. butter and scramble one egg into it. After the egg is done, add the flour (I’d say ½ cup) and stir. Season with salt and pepper.