Saturday, August 4, 2007

PureCajunSunshine's Red Beans and Rice Recipe

This is Part Three in a trilogy. Part Two is "Wash Day on the Bayou", posted on July 30, 2007. Part One is "Red Beans and Rice, Old Time Creole Style: A Story and a Recipe", posted on July 26, 2007.

If you are not from South Louisiana, there are a few important things you need to know about preparing Red Beans and Rice...

The beans...

Although my family (and everyone else I knew back in the day) always used red kidney beans, I've heard that some people prefer small red beans. If you can't get either kind, Pinto beans and Great Northern beans are suitable substitutes.

When shopping for red kidney beans, try to pick the lightest colored beans for best flavor and creamiest texture. The darker the beans, the older and tougher they are.

Red kidney beans can take less than two hours to cook, or as in the old Wash Days, up to eight hours. For hurry-ups, I will include a thirty-minute recipe using canned beans.

The meat...

A variety of meats may be used, in any combination, or singly, according to personal preference. The meat may be cooked with the beans (ham hocks, pickled pork, a meaty hambone, and/or sausage), or it may be cooked separately and served on the side (sausage or pork chops).

I like to flavor my beans with about a pound of good quality smoked sausage, cut into two inch sections. On special occasions, I also prepare a side order of pork chops that have been dusted with a good Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, and fried in a small amount of bacon drippings.

Regional meats such as Andouille sausage or "Pickle Meat" adds a special home-style flavor to Red Beans and Rice. A good substitute for Andouille sausage is a high quality Kielbasa sausage, which is a wonderful Polish creation that is found in nearly every grocery store.

In the old days, when this dish was a six to eight hour affair, a meaty hambone from Sunday's dinner was broken and added to the pot to allow the marrow to be released during long cooking. A combination of the marrow and the effects of hours of cooking gave the beans a special creaminess. A dollop or two of butter stirred into the pot in the last minutes of cooking is a fine substitute for marrow.

The "trinity" and the "pope"...

In the old days, almost everyone in south Lousiana was Catholic. The faith permeated everything, even food.

In a south Louisiana kitchen, the trinity is a combination of three essential ingredients that form some of the basic flavors for many dishes, including Red Beans and Rice. Onions, celery and bell pepper are referred to as the "holy trinity". Garlic is referred to as the "pope" because the shape of a pod of garlic resembles the shape of the pope's miter...ok, his holy hat.

The trinity for this dish is sauteed, or gently cooked, in butter or bacon drippings until wilted. Then all the other ingredients are added.

The rice...

Hot fluffy rice is served in the center of the plate, and the creamy beans are spooned all around the hill of rice. If cooked separately, the sausage or pork chops are placed to the side, on top of the beans.

For a special touch, a small sprig of parsley atop the hot mound of rice, or a garnish of minced green onion sprinkled over the beans, is nice.

The recipe...

PureCajunSunshine's Red Beans and Rice

1 pound dried red kidney beans
1 medium-large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 small or half a large bell pepper, chopped
1 or 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh garlic
1 bunch of green onions, chopped from the bulb to the tip (about 2 cups)
1 or 2 generous dollop of butter
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, or 1 heaping tablespoon dry parsley
1 pinch of thyme (what you can pick up between your thumb and index finger)
2 large bay leaves or 3 small ones
your favorite Louisiana hot sauce to taste
your choice of meat (see above commentary)
salt (add only after the beans begin to soften), or a good Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, to taste. See below for recipes for Creole Seasoning blends.

Clean the beans of garden rejects, gravel, dirt and anything else that doesn't belong there. Rinse until the water comes clear. Soak in water overnight. In the morning, drain water from the beans.

If you forgot to soak the beans, all is not lost. Put the beans in a large, heavy pot with enough water to cover them. Slowly bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes. Turn off heat. Let soak for an hour or two. Do not drain the liquid from the semi-cooked beans.

Chop the onions, celery and bell peppers into approximately 1/4" pieces. Chop the garlic fine. Saute the vegetables (cook over medium-low heat in a small amount of bacon drippings) until they are wilted and softened a bit, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Stir in half the green onions. Stir until wilted. Remove from pan, and set aside.

Add a small amount of bacon drippings to the pan, and fry sausage (or pork chops, etc.) until cooked. Remove meat, drain excess grease. Return sausage to the pot, add beans, and sauteed onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Add enough water to cover beans about two or three inches. Bring to a boil, and allow to cook over medium high heat for about a half hour, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to a gentle boil, add the bay leaves and thyme. Stir well, cover and cook for another hour, or longer if the beans are old. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. The use of a heavy pot also helps in this regard. Add a little water as needed to keep the beans from cooking dry.

After the beans begin to soften, smash some of them against the side of the pot to "cream" about a third of the beans. This gives the dish a wonderful creamy smoothness that glorifies hot fluffy rice!

Add salt, parsley, and hot sauce to taste. Continue to cook a few minutes more, stirring frequently until the new flavors are well blended, and it is thickened enough to honor the rice with a rich and creamy bath.

Just before serving, stir the remaining cup of chopped green onions into the pot.

Serve with hot fluffy rice, with pork chops on the side. A fresh green salad and garlic bread are nice accompaniments to complete this culinary delight!

Ça c'est bon! (that's good!)

PureCajunSunshine's Thirty Minute Red Beans and Rice Recipe

In place of the beans in the above recipe, use five or six cans (15 1/2 oz. each) of red kidney beans. I like to use a combination of both light and dark red kidney beans. If you can get it, use one of these brands: "Blue Runner", or "Van Camp's Creole Red Beans". Dump the entire contents of two of the cans into a blender, and whiz it up good. Set aside.

For quicker cooking, use a good quality precooked smoked sausage. Brands such as Healthy Choice or Hillshire's are good.

After the onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic have been sauteed, and the meat has been fried, and excess grease drained off, add all the canned beans (liquid included) to the pot, including the blender creamed ones. Add only enough water to keep the beans from cooking dry. Add seasonings and cook over medium high heat for 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently until flavors are well blended. Stir in chopped green onions just before serving.

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Make your own South Louisiana seasoning blends! Here are a couple of good recipes. These versions are not as complex as the (top secret) commercial versions, but they're darned close:

From Emeril Lagasse:

Emeril's Bayou Blast

2 1/2 T. paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T black pepper
1 T cayenne pepper powder
1 T oregano, dried and crumbled fine
1 T thyme, dried and crumbled fine

Combine all ingredients, mix well. Pour into a clean salt shaker.
Use on just about anything. Sprinkle generously before cooking.

This recipe is from Tony Chachere's Cajun Country Cookbook:

Tony Chachere's All-Purpose Creole Seasoning

1 box (26-oz) Morton's free flowing salt
1 box (1 1/2 oz) ground black pepper
1 bottle (2-oz) ground red pepper
1 bottle (1-oz)pure garlic powder
1 bottle (1-oz) chili powder
1 carton (1-oz) Monosodium glutamate (Accent)

Mix well and use like salt. When it's salty enough, it's "seasoned to perfection". Use generously on everything.

Tips: To season seafood use half of the above mixture and add:

1 tsp powdered thyme
1 tsp bay leaf
1 tsp sweet basil

1 comment:

J said...

I read in Chef John Folses book, or was it Paul Prudhommes? That adding a can of mild Rotel to your beans would give it extra zing

I have to say I agree, You can't see them but the taste is MUCH better