Sunday, July 17, 2011

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

Growing up in Louisiana, I was always picky about my red beans and rice. The best red beans and rice I've had are the ones at the Chimes in Baton Rouge. The beans are tender and creamy, the flavor rich, smoky, and porky. When I moved away for grad school I realized I had to come up with a recipe like the Chimes' using ingredients I could find outside of Louisiana. 

I think one of the most important things about cooking red beans is cooking them long enough that the beans start to break down and make the sauce creamy. I add a lot of ham flavor by adding it early on and letting the ham give up all its flavor to the beans. This is another big batch meal, perfect to feed a crowd or to freeze into individual portions for later.

The tweaks:

I add two optional nontraditional ingredients: diced tomatoes and chipotles in adobo. The tomatoes cook down into the sauce so no one would know they’re in the beans, but they enhance the beautiful red color of the dish, make the mouthfeel of the sauce a little lighter, and add a hint of acidity to wake up the flavor. The chipotle enhances the spicy, smoky flavors of the dish. Garnishing the red beans with fresh green onions brightens the flavor and adds color. 

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
2 lbs bag red kidney beans
1 lb ham. Doesn't matter what kind--can be a ham steak, part of a ham roast, or ham bone. It's just for flavor and will be removed at the end.
2 T Tony Chacheres Cajun seasoning
1 lbs smoked pork sausage. My favorite is Savoie's Andouille, but in Boston, I subbed in Portugese Chorico. In Oregon, I use Zenner's Cajun sausage. Chorizo or kielbasa would also work.
2 onions, chopped
half a head of celery, chopped
3 bell peppers, chopped
7 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T Worcestershire sauce
3 bay leaves
¼ t thyme (optional)
1 15oz can diced tomatoes (optional)
1 T chipotles in adobo, minced (optional)
1 t liquid smoke (optional)

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
Tabasco Sauce

Rinse beans and soak in a large bowl, stockpot, or dutch oven with plenty of water for 6-12 hours. Drain and add enough fresh water to just barely cover the beans. Add ham and Tony Chacheres to beans, cover pot, and bring to a simmer. While simmering, brown (almost blacken) sausage in a skillet (preferably cast iron). Add to beans. Brown veggies in skillet and add to beans when they are done. Add remaining ingredients except garnish to beans. Simmer uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours, keeping water level just above beans. until beans dissolve slightly and become creamy. Remove and discard ham before serving--it has given up all of its flavor to the beans, and is no longer tasty. Serve with brown rice, Tabasco sauce and fresh chopped green onions.

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