Red Beans & Rice
It is far from coincidental that at this time of year I would be thinking about my family in Louisiana. Thanksgiving was a huge holiday for us. For years I spent it with my stepmom and her considerable family who can all totally throw down in the kitchen. Thanksgiving dinner was a marathon – there were so many dishes, and only so much time, and everything was just so good that you wanted to keep going and going and going. Joy was finishing, getting up from the table so someone else could have your seat, and then realizing that there was still a little corner of your belly that had room for baked macaroni and cheese that you had missed the first time around.
Currently (literally, right this second) I am preparing for a Thanksgiving of my own in my adopted home of London. Similar to my stepmom’s gatherings there will be turkey, and dressing and sweets. And like my stepmom I will have many, many people celebrating with me because I had the genius idea to invite two entire classrooms of children (and their parents) to join us for this American celebration. All but one family accepted (and he probably only declined because he saw how many other people accepted and was pretty sure it was going to be a sh*t show). From 4pm until 8pm on Thursday our house will be a revolving door of kids, parents and careers drinking wine, eating turkey and enjoying a holiday, the origins of which no one can quite place. I have four cases of wine, six turkey breasts and containers and containers and containers of stuffing, dressing, veggies and sweets being prepped, labeled and planned out for Thursday. I. Can’t. Wait.
Today, though, is Monday and Monday is Red Beans & Rice day. Yet another Southern Louisiana culinary tradition.
Way back in the days of ole Monday was “wash day” and was the day that the women (and/or/aka servants) would need to prepare dinner while also handling the week’s washing. They could put a pot of dried beans with vegetables (onions, bell pepper, celery), spices (peppers, thyme, bay leaves) and leftover pork bones from Sunday’s dinner on the stove and pretty much leave it to cook for the day. Thus Red Beans & Rice was born. The dish needs very little involvement other than checking occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t all cooked out. The end result is a silky, creamy broth with delicately softened beans flavored with sausage and smoked meat to add a depth and complexity to the dish. It is served simply over white rice and topped with a sprinkling of freshly chopped green onion.
The tradition continues today where many restaurants in New Orleans will serve the humble dish only on Mondays and in many Southern Louisiana households the tradition stands as well. I could think of no better way to prepare for an enormous Thanksgiving feast than by putting a pot of beans on to cook in the morning and allow me to set up the house and ready it for our feast all day long.
The laundry? That’ll have to wait.
- 2 tablespoons goose fat
- 200g (1/3 lb) smoked bacon lardons
- 500g (1 lb) raw smoked sausage, cut into bite sized pieces (save the two end pieces)
- 2 onions, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 450g (1 lb) dried red kidney beans, rinsed and soaking in cold water for at least 30 minutes (up to 12 hours)
- 700 ml (3 cups) low sodium chicken stock
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- large pinch red pepper
- large pinch white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (plus more if needed)
- 2 teaspoons salt (plus more if needed)
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- tabasco to taste
- 6 cups cooked white rice
- 3 green onions, chopped fine
- Tabasco Sauce
- Place a heavy soup pot over medium high heat (cast iron is ideal!) and add the goose fat and smoked bacon lardons. Cook until the lardons are nearly done - but not quite. Remove the lardons and set aside to return to the pot later. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery and cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently.
- Drain the kidney beans and then add them, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, red pepper, salt and black pepper to the pot. Cover with water by at least one inch, then add the chicken stock. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to low and allow beans to cook for 90 minutes, stirring every 20-30 minutes or so. Add more water if the water evaporates and is no longer covering the top layer of the beans.
- After 90 minutes add the sausage and vinegar and cook for another 30 minutes.
- At this point taste for creaminess. The beans should be completely mushy while still retaining their shape. If they are still a bit toothsome then cook for another 15 minutes and check again.
- Important step: Now remove a third of the red beans (and some of the water / stock) and blend for 60 seconds on high in a standard blender. Then return the blended mixture back to the pot with the rest of the red beans also return the bacon lardons at this point.
- Cook for another 10 minutes and then taste for seasoning adding tabasco, salt, black pepper and red pepper as needed.
- Serve over white rice topped with thinly sliced green beans and with Tabasco served on the side.
- It is important to use the best smoked sausage you can find. In Louisiana people usually use Andouille but elsewhere look for smoked French or German sausages.
- This recipe serves 6 adults.