Michael is very particular about his gallo pinto, the slightly fried rice and beans dish popular all over Central American and especially in Costa Rica. It’s the backbone of every meal – breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I think I must’ve eaten three pounds of beans while there. He likes his gallo pinto slightly dry with a few crunchy bits and the rest chewy or soft.
When I got back from our 2009 Costa Rica trip, I immediately made gallo pinto. Nidia, Michael’s grandmother, had explained the steps to me (in Spanish) and I thought I had it down. But for two years there was something just not quite right about my rice and beans. It always turned out too wet and the rice and beans sort of smooshed together into a paste.
This trip, I took special care to have Nidia instruct me again on a proper gallo pinto. Either my Spanish got better or I paid more attention to the actual dish, but I’ve recreated it successfully twice now here in San Francisco.
Tonight I even did it with brown rice. Bam!
Here’s how it goes:
Make beans. Make rice. Wait a day. I think day-old rice makes better gallo pinto. Get a pan medium hot, add a good amount of oil. I forgot the oil all last year. Put drained beans in. I also failed at draining the beans. Be careful because the pan will spit at you. Then put the rice on top. The heat will soften the cold rice. While you wait for the rice and beans to warm up and start frying on the bottom, chop a handful of cilantro and get a wedge of lemon or lime out. Mix up the rice and beans and turn the heat down low. You want to wait until you can shake the pan and hear the bottom slide around dryly. Stir mixture around and wait some more as everything toasts up. I never waited last year. Squeeze your citrus and scatter the cilantro. Done. Eat.
If you feel up to it, you can even make tortas, meat patties with masa flour. I’m a vegetarian, but I’ll make them sometimes to humor Michael. He loves them.
Try it and let me know what you think. If you do decide to try it, please look up a real recipe online. I’m a vague cook.