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Red beans and rice. Ahhhhhh November 20, 2009

Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Food.

I’m going to take a little time off from whining and griping here and talk about something positive.  Try not to be too shocked.

Instead of our weekly cooler weather soups, last week we decided to do red beans and rice.  One of my all time favorite comfort foods.  The very first time I had real red beans and rice was in New Orleans, and I fell in love.  Just not with the $6.50 price tag on it.  I’ll never understand why this dish costs so much out.  Whatever, let’s cook.

The day before you plan to cook your beans, they need to soak overnight.  There are quicker ways to do this, but if you have the time, why not?  Make sure that you sort through the beans before soaking them.  Having a small rock slip through into your meal is never a good thing.  I used small red beans.  That’s what it says on the bag.  I don’t use kidney beans, although some people do.  And I’m sure it turns out fine.  But I’m all about tradition.

Okay, dried beans have been sorted and soaked overnight.  Check.  Time to do a little work.  Onions, celery and green bell pepper all need to be diced.  That’s right, the famous “trinity” you may have heard about.
I used two smallish onions, a rib of celery and half a green pepper. While I had the cutting board out, I also minced a couple cloves of garlic.
In our big Dutch oven, I heated a little oil, about a couple tablespoons. Once it was hot I added the onions, celery and pepper and let it sweat. Cook slowly on low to medium heat until the vegetable soften.
At this point you want to start seasoning. A good pinch of salt and about a teaspoon of cayenne pepper goes in with the vegetables, along with a couple bay leaves. This is one of the very few dishes I make that does not have black pepper in it. I’m not sure why, but it works.
Once the vegetables are soft, add the garlic and cook for about another minute.
Next, take the beans that you’ve drained and add them to the pot. Then you add liquid. For the vegetarian crowd, you can use either water or vegetable broth. I prefer chicken stock. Our home made stuff, preferably. We had about half a quart in the fridge. I finished that and brought up another quart from the basement.

Bring the beans to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and wait. This would be a good time to catch up on the back episodes of your favorite programs that are stacking up in your DVR.
Once the beans are soft, about two hours, it’s time to finish it. You need to thicken this. One way is to remove a cup or so of beans and run them through the blender and return the puree to the pot. You can also use a potato masher right in the pot, so long as you don’t mash everything. Or you could do what I did. Use the stick blender! One of my favorite things to play with. This would also be a good time to check to see if you need more salt.
Just one more thing to add. Traditionally, you add slices of smoked sausage like andouille to red beans. I didn’t happen to have any. But I did have some chunks of ham that spent a few hours in my smoker. That’s close enough for me.

The ham, diced, goes into the pot with the beans. Let that cook until the ham is just warm through. Turn off the heat, find a container big enough and empty the pot into it and refrigerate.
You can eat red beans the same day you make them. And they’re fine. But if you’re smart, you’ll listen to me and let the sit for at least a day in the fridge. You’ll thank me later.
Since this was going to be a swim class night dinner, when I got home from work, I put the beans in the crockpot to heat gently until dinner time. When we got home from swim class, we got the rice cooker going. Less than half an hour later, diner was ready.
This dish should always be served with bread. Good French bread, ideally. Some Tabasco should be on the table, for those who want a slightly hotter finished product. And while milk works fine as an accompanying beverage, beer is very traditional. Just saying. Oh, you have to have the right music. Some things go better with beans and rice. Like this:

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