Thursday, July 17, 2008

Red Beans and Rice Didn't Miss Her

As previously mentioned, the oven is out of commission. Still. And no one has come by to look at it. Still. I may need to make another phone call.

With the oven broken, my plans for Boston-style baked beans were out, but in addition to the bag of white beans I had in the pantry for that, I had a bag of small red beans. I also always have brown rice on hand, so I decided to take a culinary trip a little south of Boston and make a Louisiana favorite- red beans and rice.

Red beans and rice is a staple of Louisiana Creole cooking (which is different from the more rustic Cajun cuisine). It was traditionally served on Mondays, which were laundry day, as a housewife could put the pot of beans on the stove and let it simmer while she focused her attention on the wash. Soaking your beans overnight cuts down on the cooking time a bit, but it'll still take at least two hours to cook. I didn't do the laundry while mine was cooking, but I did go to the gym and got some paperwork done...
Contrary to popular belief, Creole and Cajun cuisine isn't traditionally melt-your-face spicy. (We can thank the 90s "blackened-everything" fad for that- not saying I don't occasionally like a bit of blackened fish or tofu, but it's not really representative of the cuisine as a whole). There is a bit of spice, but its more about the depth of flavor, rather than making it so hot it doesn't taste like anything. These beans have just a hint of spicy bite, a slight smokiness and a unique creaminess. Just thinking about them makes me want to eat! You serve them over white or brown rice- I prefer the nuttiness and slightly chewy texture of the brown rice, personally.
I started my dish with a small amount of andouille sausage, a smoked, coarse Cajun sausage that is lightly spiced. Since the sausage is really just for flavor, rather than the focus of the dish, I only used about 4oz for the whole pot. To spread it out, I cut it lengthwise, and then into thin half-circle coins. This made big enough pieces that every now and then, you got a pleasant bite of sausage. I sauteed the sausage a bit in the pot to melt out some of the fat (andouille is already cooked.) Since I used chicken andouille (by Aidell's), I knew there wouldn't be much fat, so I added about a tablespoon of canola oil to the sausage. If you were using a regular pork andouille, you wouldn't need the additional fat. If you can't find andouille, you could use kielbasa or even hot Italian sausage. Of course, the dish is easily made vegetarian with the omission of sausage.

Between the andouille and the "holy trinity" (what Cajun and Creole cooks call the mixture of onion, celery and green peppers), the beans make the whole house smell delicious! If you can smell that smoky, oniony, garlicky goodness all day and not get hungry, you have a will of iron, my friend!

Red Beans and Rice

Serves 4 hungry people

  • 1 1/2cups dry small red beans or kidney beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 4oz andouille sausage, cut into half-circle coins (optional)
  • 1Tbsp Canola oil, if needed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2tsp Cajun seasoning or 1/4tsp cayanne, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp ground pepper and 1tsp salt
  • A few dashes hot sauce (I like Tabasco's Chipotle Sauce)
  • Water (as needed)

In a large pot, cook andouille and oil (if using a lower-fat andouille) until andouille is fragrant and some of the fat has cooked out. Add the onion, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook until onion just starts to soften. Add the beans and enough water to cover (about 4 or 5 cups). Add the bay leaves, spices and hot sauce. Bring to a rapid boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to med-low and cover pot. Check on the beans every 20-30 minutes- give them a stir to prevent sticking and add a cup or two of water if needed to keep beans covered. After about 2 hours taste a bean to check doneness. If bean is still crunchy, cover pot and cook another 30-60min. If bean is done, adjust seasoning, adding more salt and spices if desired. If the beans are "soupier" than you prefer, remove the lid and bring the beans to a boil for a few minutes to cook off some of the liquid.

Serve beans over cooked white or brown rice, with a bottle of hot sauce on the side.


Talia said...

I was wondering if there is a way to make this using canned beans- it looks really good!

Pumpkin said...

I would be do-able, I think. You'd probably need about 3 cans of red or kidney beans, and probably only 2 or 3 cups of water total. You might even want to replace the water with vegetable or chicken stock, since you won't get the same sort of broth you get from slow cooking the beans. I'd also cut down the cooking time to maybe half an hour or so.

Jack said...

Sir Mix-a-lot would be proud!