Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Red Beans & Rice

My cousin recently told me that she'd never had red beans and rice.  For shame! My sister-in-law got this recipe from the back of a mystery novel set in New Orleans.  I've altered it a bit to give it some more flavor.  It says it serves six, but I'd say it would easily serve more than that, unless you skip the rice and just eat the red beans and sausage like a gumbo, then it might only serve six.  It's very filling, and it freezes really well.  To thaw it back out, just put the frozen block in a pot and put it over a very low heat shifting regularly until you have enough liquid in the bottom to keep the beans from burning.  Then  turn the heat up to medium-ish and stir it every so often, again to make sure the beans don't burn.

Here's the original recipe with my alterations and additions in ( ) :

This recipe takes approximately 5 hours, so start it early.  I started mine around 1 and we were eating around 6:30 or so.  I am sure this could be accomplished in a crock pot overnight, or all day, and taste just as good, but I've never tried it.  I don't think my crock pot is big enough, truthfully.  

Red Beans and Rice

*1 lb Dried Kidney Beans

*2 qt Cold Water
*1 meaty ham bone or a thick slice of raw ham cut into cubes
(Instead of ham, I used smoked pork neck bones.  They're about $1 lb and I had several bones leftover for soup beans or stock later.  You could also use smoked turkey wings for good flavor if you're not into pork)
*1/2 lb hot sausage sliced thick (I used andoullie, but I imagine you could use ground sausage, too.  It does need to be REALLY flavorful, because it's going to lose a lot of flavor to the beans and water.)
*1 bunch scallions, including green tops
*1 bell pepper
*2 stalks celery
*3 medium onions
*pinch of thyme (more like 2 or 3 good big pinches)
*4 bay leaves
*Cayenne Pepper or Tobasco Sauce (I used both... )
*Salt (liberally)
*White Rice - not instant
(Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning)
(Cavender's Greek Seasoning)
(Beef Boullion - 2 regular cubes)
(1 chile pepper)

I have doubled the recipe and thrown in 1 lb of black beans instead of a second lb of kidney beans, so it was a red & black beans and rice.  Still fabulous.  I don't like celery, but all the vegetables cook down into a flavorful mush if simmered long enough, so you can sneak all kinds of stuff to picky eaters in this dish.  Even if it's still recognizable, it doesn't taste like itself anymore.  

NOTE:  If you are one of those people who pre-preps their veggies etc. before they cook, add an additional half hour to the cook time before smashing the beans.

If you prefer instant rice, add an additional half hour to cook time after smashing the beans.

Rinse the kidney beans twice, toss any that don't look good (discolored), and get rid of any foreign debris that might've snuck into the bag.  Put beans and 2 qts of water in a big heavy pot.  You need at least a gallon stock pot for this.  It seems superfluous for 2 qts of water and some beans, but all your veggies are going to disintegrate into more broth, so you need the space.

Add the ham (boiling meat of choice), sausage, salt, and pepper.  Put on medium heat.

While your beans are heating and soaking - chop your veggies and toss them in as you go.  Add your seasonings (the original recipe calls for very little seasoning.  I liberally dosed mine with some additions, and it was not overly spicy)

When the mixture boils (I had to turn mine up to a med-high heat to obtain a boil) reduce heat to a simmer, and allow to cook for 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes (or basically when you think about it, but don't wait too long.)

Using a spoon, squash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot.  If they don't mash easily, try again in 30 minutes. 

40 minutes after you've mashed your beans, taste and tweak the seasonings.  Allow to cook for another 30 minutes while you prepare the white rice.  

Ladle beans over rice and serve.

All the veggies will practically disappear, and mashing the beans thickens the broth into something like a gravy.  I didn't squash enough beans, so mine was thinner than expected, but still really tasty. 

If you don't add anything else to the original recipe, I definitely recommend some cajun-ish spices, and don't be afraid of salt.  The beans and rice both really dull down any spices you add, so the broth has to be flavorful enough to make up for it.