Red Beans and Rice are a classic of the Louisiana cooking canon. And I assume every Louisiana cook has there own version that they would assert constitutes the only way to properly make the dish. And I’ll tell you, the same can be said of me. No, I am not from Louisiana and I don’t have roots there, but I love the food and I cook my own version of red beans and rice – the way I like. So I’ve been reluctant to share the recipe, because I may be brought to task for not cooking them in the traditional way. But as I see it, that’s kind of the point of a country, homey comforting dish. You do what you like, with out the constraints of technique or the weight of history. But with Mardi Gras on the doorstep, I thought I’d better share the dish I make most often from my Louisiana repertoire.
My red beans are full of flavor, and full of delicious pork. I cook the beans with lots of flavorful additions, then use that cooking liquid in rich sauce. I like a little creaminess in my red beans, the rice just soaks it up so well. And underlying everything is the beautiful trinity of Louisiana cooking, celery, onion and green pepper. This makes a big ol’ pot, and I like more red beans than rice, so cook a little extra rice if you are so inclined. Make a batch of King Cake Bars and you’ve got a Mardi Gras party!
Tasso is a spiced, smoked Cajun style pork. If you can’t find tasso at a specialty market, use a piece of smoked ham or a ham hock and some creole seasoning. If you can’t find Andouille, use any smoked sausage like kielbasa.
Red Beans and Rice My Way
1 pound red beans or kidney beans
3 stalks celery
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
6 ounces tasso or smoked ham or ham hock plus 2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1 green bell pepper
14 ounces Andouille sausage
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
salt to taste
1 ½ cups long grain white rice
3 ½ cups water
hot sauce for serving
For the Red Beans:
Sort through the beans, picking out any debris or broken beans. Rinse well then place in a bowl and cover with water by about 3 inches. Soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the soaked beans and place in a large pot. Add the carrot, broken in two, one celery stick, also broken and half of the onion. Cut through the circumference of the onion and put the root end in the pot, it will hold together better. Add the garlic, bay leaves and tasso. Cover with 10 cups of cold water, bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, reduce the heat and cover the pot. Cook until the beans are tender, about 1 – 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
While the beans are cooking, finely dice the remaining onion half, 2 stalks of celery and the green pepper. Cut the Andouille into bite-sized pieces.
When the beans are tender, place a colander over a large bowl and drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves and garlic and set the tasso aside. Wipe out the cooking pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter over low heat, then add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until it is absorbed into the vegetables. Stir in the Creole seasoning. Pour in 3 cups of reserved cooking liquid from the beans. Stir until the sauce has thickened, about 4 minutes, then add the andouille and stir to coat. Return the beans to the sauce and stir gently to coat. Dice the tasso into small pieces and add to the pot, stirring gently again. Simmer over low heat until everything is warmed through, making sure the sausage is cooked through.
For the Rice:
When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan. Set aside for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.
Spoon the rice into nice, big bowls and scoop the red beans over. Serve with some hot sauce on the table.
Serves 6 – 8