I’ve lived in the South most of my life, including 13 years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as well as Mobile, Alabama and elsewhere. During that time I paid attention to Cajun food, Cajun chefs, and Cajun culture. Whenever I make red beans and rice — one of my favorite Louisiana vittles along with Jambalaya — I plan on making it a two-day fandango. The first day I make the stock*, chill it, skim the fat, and soak the red beans (the smaller the better) in the resulting liquid overnight. Then, (day two) I cook the red beans and have at it. Red beans & rice is one of those “magic melds” of complementary flavors. Then again, any bean served with rice, in my opinion, is magic. For instance, try black beans in this same recipe. There is nothing special in “Tim’s Red Beans & Rice” other than how great it tastes. Here’s how to make it:
1 bag (16-oz) dried red beans — real beans, not canned. Don’t be tempted.
1 or 2 or 3 smoked ham hocks, hog jowls, or pork side-meat (side meat is very salty — be careful!). “Smoked” is the keyword here. Some folks use smoked turkey legs, but these are only rumors, mind you. My preference is smoked jowls, if you can find them.
1 package or more (two 10-inch pieces) smoked sausage. Hillshire Farms “Smoked Polish Kielbasa” is okay. Stay away from Italian unless you want Italian Red beans and Rice.
2 or more medium onions, chopped fine
4 cloves crushed garlic (more or less)
1/2 green pepper (chopped)
3 stalks chopped celery
1 to 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper (to suit your own taste). Cayenne pepper comes in varying degrees of hotness, but red beans & rice is supposed to be hot
2, 16-ounce cans chicken broth (it will be reduced during Day 1)
3-4 cups cooked rice (at serving time). I prefer non-sticky (converted) rice, but sticky rice works well, too. Some folks cook the rice with the beans, but I disagree. It’s too difficult to determine liquid levels and it’s way too easy to overcook the rice. Besides, the table-side presentation is much better when the beans and spooned over fresh rice.
Do not add salt, as the ham hocks, hog jowls, or pork side-meat will provide most of it. Only add salt when everything is finished.
The above ingredients are basis only. Customize as you go.
DAY 1 (MORNING)
Put everything EXCEPT rice, beans, and smoked sausage in large pot and steep for 3-4 hours. The ham hocks, hog jowls, or pork side-meat will infuse their loveliness into the ensuing stock. When done, add water to replenish liquid level and remove the ham hocks, hog jowls, or pork side-meat, picking the meat and returning to stock, but that’s not necessary. I usually snack on the pickings, a “chef’s prize” if you will.
Skim the fat (or put the stock in the refrigerator for a couple hours to solidify the surface-level fat).
Add the red beans to the stock and refrigerate overnight.
Spoon out about 1/4 of the soggy red bean mixture and puree in a blender. This is easier to do when the stock is cold. Return to stock. Quarter 1/2 of the smoked sausage lengthwise and slice into 1/2-3/4″ pieces. Add to stock pot. If you want, use a crock pot. Simmer on LOW heat for about 4 to 5 hours or until beans are tender but not mushy. You will need to continuously monitor and regulate the liquid level while simmering. At the end, you want cooked beans, not overdone, but with a minimal amount of broth left over. Some amount of juice is desirable. Remember, the puree bean mash made and added at the beginning, tends to thicken while cooking. I usually use water (as opposed to more broth) to bring the liquids up to par level.
Slice and add the other 1/2 of the sausage about 45 minutes before the beans are done.
Serve the slightly wet (some juice is okay) bean-stock mixture over fresh-cooked rice. Provide hot sauce and Tabasco sauce table-side.
For more ideas on cooking Red Beans & Rice, search the Internet on “red beans and rice”+recipe.
The bean and stock freezes rather well, so you can make large batches. However, always prepare fresh rice!
(*) This is an all-purpose Southern stock. Make a LOT of it. Freeze it. Then use it as a base in which to cook outstanding green beans, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, black-eyed peas, you name it. And — yes, Rich — maybe even lima beans.
(originally published and copyrighted© 1998-2010 by Simply Tim in the Recipe du Jour news letter.)
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