Apr 8, 2009

Beans, Beans, They’re Good For Your...Mondays?

Beans are one of those foods that are common to many cultures. Various people around the world eat them. The same can be said for rice and bread. The preparation and cooking methods may differ (flat bread v. a loaf of bread), but there is something there that’s familiar to billions.

Red Beans and Rice is a very popular Creole dish. In fact, it’s a Monday tradition throughout New Orleans and many other areas of S LA. In the past, Monday meant wash day and red beans and rice. Since this meal requires little work and simmers on the stove all day, it allowed housewives the time they needed to get the wash done without having to worry about trying to get a meal prepared too. It was also a good place to use leftover ham or turkey legs from Sunday’s dinner. All-in-all, very practical...and I like that.

Red beans and rice are still eaten on Mondays in many homes, restaurants, and school cafeterias even though we can now do laundry whenever we want.

Not only is red beans and rice a Monday tradition, it is also often made to feed crowds...Mardi Gras, birthday parties, feeding everyone who comes over to watch the Saints or LSU. Feeds a lot for not a lot. I like that too.

For me, there are a few things that absolutely have to be. I like red beans that have a creamy texture (yeah, you right!). To get that, do what my great-grandma did...mash some of the cooked beans against the side of your pot. I also like them smoky, so my preference for seasoning is some kind of smoked meat added to the pot. I also like the sausage cooked with the beans instead of on the side. Another must for me is very little rice. Too much rice dries it out.

This may all sound picky, but really red beans and rice is an easy meal to make and easy to customize to your level of pickiness. Very forgiving and easy to make substitutions. You can even turn this into my oldest brother’s favorite...white beans and rice...with enough hot sauce to turn ‘em pink.

Red Beans and Rice
from Ms. enPlace
1 lb red kidney beans
vegetable or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 meaty ham bone (can also use ham hocks, pork neck bones, smoked turkey legs)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
¼ c parsley or green onions for garnish (optional)
cooked smoked sausage, if desired
cooked rice

Rinse beans and pick through to remove any debris. Soak overnight.

Heat oil in a large pot. Saute vegetables until soft. Add beans, ham bone, and seasonings to pot. Cover with water and simmer a few hours until beans are tender (2 1/2-3 hours).

If desired, browned smoked sausage can be added to the pot of beans or served on the side.

About a half hour before the beans are done, taste for seasoning and adjust. Remove bones from pot. If any meat remains on the bones, remove it with a fork and return meat to pot.

Remove about 1 to 1 ½ cups beans from the pot and mash. Return to pot and stir. Remove bay leaf, serve over cooked rice. Top with chopped parsley or green onions.

This is just an idea of what you'll need. Different types of meats and seasonings can be used, different amounts of vegetables, I've even added some butter on occasion for extra creaminess.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pot and saute the chopped vegetables (except for the parsley and/or green onions). Cook until soft.

Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and bay leaf to the pot. I also added some Creole seasoning. Later on, I'll taste it and probably add garlic and onion powder too.

Drain the soaked beans and add them to the pot. Add water to cover the beans. Also add the ham bone, ham hocks, pork neck bones, smoked turkey legs, etc. you want to use. Simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the beans are tender. I like to skim the scummy stuff off the top now and then. I don't want to look at that stuff every time I pass.

While the beans simmer, brown some smoked sausage. I used smoked turkey sausage this time and I'll tell ya...I'm not doing that again! I don't know what I was thinking. It was flavorless and added nothing. I'll stick with my favorite--andouille.

About a half hour before the beans are done, remove the bones from the pot. Pick off any meat that remains and toss it back in the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove about 1 to 1 1/2 c of beans and set aside. I like to add the browned sausage now. I don't like it simmering in the pot for hours--the texture gets weird to me. But, I also don't like it served on the side.

Mash the beans you set aside. I like to use my potato masher. Or, just use the back of your spoon and keep it all in the pot.

Serve beans over cooked rice...on a Monday. Top with chopped parsley and/or green onion.  Dat's good eatin' right dere, dawlin'

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1 comment:

  1. I'd love to be at your house when you make red beans and rice. This was one of my favorite meals growing up, I miss my mom but, I think I cook it just like her. Thanks for sharing. I will be back to visit, lots of good things to read and see!


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