December 7, 2011

red beans and ricely yours

I wish I had more recipes like red beans and rice in my repertoire. Big flavor, minimal work, and the leftovers only improve in the fridge. You begin by sweating chopped onion, celery, and bell pepper in a heavy pot. Once the vegetables are lightly browned, I add a few seasonings followed by the beans and some water. For me, the next 3 hours might involve making some necklaces, calling my family, tending to the beans, reading, drinking mulled wine, and tending to the beans again. Basically, this is ideal lazy Sunday dinner material. 30 minutes before we are ready to eat, I start a pot of rice and make a salad. And there, that's dinner.

One last thing: as a nod to health, I usually make my red beans without meat. The traditional version with andouille and/or ham hocks tastes great, but I like the meatless version just as much. (Well, nearly meatless; I do cook the trinity in duck fat.) A tip from my friend Jyoti that I've adapted is to scatter grated cheddar and chopped scallions on top. It's not traditional but adds nice flavor and richness to the meatless version.

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Red beans and rice
adapted from various sources

I've had good luck using both fancy beans (e.g. those from Rancho Gordo, like Rio Zape) and run-of-the-mill, red beans from the grocery store. Though I prefer the flavor/texture of Rancho Gordo, I wouldn't hesitate to use grocery store beans for this. Either way, I never soak my beans overnight; just allow yourself enough time to cook the beans thoroughly.

1 1/2 tablespoons rendered duck fat, lard, schmaltz, bacon fat or oil
1 pound dried red beans (I much prefer small red beans, but kidney will work)
1 large (or 2 small) chopped onion, divided 
1 chopped bell pepper, divided
4 stalks chopped celery, divided
1-2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus 1-3 teaspoons to taste
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 dried or 3 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste 
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce, plus more to taste
chopped parsley
chopped green onions
grated cheese (such as cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Over medium high heat, melt the fat in an oven-safe pot with lid, such as a French oven. Add half of the onion/celery/bell pepper, reserving the rest for later. Cook until vegetables develop some color, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and the seasonings -- salt, paprika, black and cayenne peppers, oregano, bay leaves -- and stir again. Add 6 cups of water -- the water should cover the beans by at least 1 inch) and bring the pot to a boil.

When the mixture is boiling, cover the pot and set it in the oven. Cook 1 hour and then check the water level.  The beans should be just below the water line; if not, add more boiling water. Cover and return to oven. Cook another hour and then taste a bean for tenderness. If the bean still has a bite to it, continue cooking until beans are tender. This should take about 2 total hours, but if your beans are ancient, you may need to cook longer, adding boiling water if necessary.

When the beans are tender, stir in the remaining onions/celery/bell pepper, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Return to a boil on the stove, and turn heat down to a slow simmer. Cook, partially covered, another 30-60 minutes. For even creamier beans, you can also mash some of the beans using a wooden spoon. Taste; you'll probably need to add more salt. Start with 1/2 teaspoon and add more if necessary. You can also season with additional Worcestershire and/or hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

Serve over hot rice, garnished with parsley, grated cheese, and green onions. Pass extra hot sauce at the table.

More traditional, meat-laden rice beans and rice: If you'd like, begin by browning 1/2 cup chopped andouille sausage. Once browned, proceed by sweating half of the vegetables. You will want to cut back on the salt, cayenne and hot sauce, depending on how seasoned your sausage is. Proceed as normal, otherwise. And for a richer, more savory version, you could also simmer smoked meat, such as a small ham hock, with the beans. Add an additional 1-2 cups of water to the beans, along with the ham hock, and wait to add salt until the end.

4 comments:

Lan said...

Hi honey,
It sounds healthy and delicious.I wish that your father and Lynh would eat it.It's kind of taxing that here we have 3 people in the same household with 3 radically different food preferences: Mexican, Vietnamese and LFJ cuisine.GTG
Love,
Mom

Liz in DC said...

This inspired me to make red beans and rice tonight, and because I had all the ingredients on hand besides ham hocks/andouille, ours will be meatless too. It smells/looks awesome! Which hot sauce do you use for this? I really recommend Marie Sharp's habanero hot sauce, if you haven't already tried it!

Mark said...

Thanks for the hot sauce recommendation. I'll look for it! we always use Crystal on red beans and rice -- it's more peppery than vinegary.

Alex said...

I made beans from scratch using this recipe (for the first time ever). Everyone loved it! From picky kids who especially appreciated the cheese to my wife who loves beans to our neighbor who drowned his in hot sauce. I found this blog while randomly googling and am now looking forward to trying other recipes now.