Ingredients: onion, garlic, parsley, celery, cumin, cayenne, bay leaf and red pepper flakes
Red beans and rice is a classic New Orleans dish, that for years was served mainly on Mondays (although nowadays it can be had any day of the week). A favorite food of famed New Orleans Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, the musician was known to sign his letters with "Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong".
Red beans and rice may be the quintessential dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine (this was not originally a Cajun dish). Typically made with red beans, vegetables (bell pepper, onion, and celery), spices and pork bones (often leftovers from Sunday dinner) slow cooked in a pot and served over rice. A great example of true Southern cooking at its core, and perfect for escaping the cold days of winter.
According to food historians, red beans most likely made their way to New Orleans in the 1790’s with the white sugar plantation owners who migrated to Louisiana from Saint-Dominge (today known as Haiti) after the slave uprising on the Caribbean island.
In the US throughout the 1800's and early 1900's (before washing machines become more affordable), Mondays were typically the “wash day” of the week, and during these earlier years laundry was a very labor-intensive activity done by the women of the house. Water had to be boiled, clothing had to be scrubbed and wrung and rinsed by hand, and then hung to dry. Because the chore of laundry took so much time out of the day, the need for a simple Monday dinner became quite necessary.
A dish that could sit on the back burner and simmer throughout the day was ideal. In New Orleans, it was customary, as it was in much of the country, to have a big Sunday dinner for the family after church. These Sunday dinners often include ham (with the hambone included).
Finding a way to incorporate the leftover hambone into Monday's supper just made sense. The hambone pairs perfectly with slow-cooked red beans. A hambone, some beans, the holy trinity of New Orleans vegetables (bell peppers, onions and celery), spices, some water, rice and a few hours and the end result is a relatively hassle-free, hearty dinner. And the tradition was born.
Every New Orleans native has their favorite place to go for Red Beans, whether it is at mom’s or grandma’s house or the kitchen of a famed New Orleans chef. It has become such a ubiquitous dish that it isn’t that hard to find a bowl of red beans throughout the city, even if it is not Monday.
We like to add approximately 1/4 cup of Red Beans and Rice Seasoning for each two cups of dried beans used in a recipe.
If you’re like most, you'll probably want to experiment a bit each time you make it, and there is no one single red beans and rice recipe. While we change some things around each time we make red beans and rice in our home kitchen, there are some “rules” that we always kept consistent. We prefer to use either authentic andouille sausage or smoked ham hocks (sometimes we use both) as our choice of meat(s). We tend to use chicken stock instead of water for our liquid, and of course always use the "holy trinity' of New Orleans cuisine - chopped onions, bell peppers and celery.
So, in addition to our red beans and rice seasoning, a super flavorful red beans and rice recipe will include about 3 tablespoons of oil (or if you’re more adventurous bacon grease), 4-1/2 cups of chicken stock, ¼ cup of tasso (a highly spiced, cured and smoked pork shoulder) or chopped ham, 1 lb of ham hocks, 1 lb of andouille sausage, 1-1/2 cup chopped onion, ¾ cup of diced bell pepper, ¾ cup of chopped celery, 2 cups of dried kidney beans and 2 cups of cooked rice. And if you want to make a version that is closer to Louie Armstrong’s favorite red beans and rice recipe, add in 1 small can of tomato sauce.
Add the beans to a large bowl and cover with water by 2 inches. Soak the beans for about 8 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil (or bacon grease if you prefer) over medium-high heat. Add the tasso or chopped ham and cook, stirring (about 1 minute). Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the pot. Season with about 2-3 tablespoons of Red Beans and Rice Seasoning and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft (about 4 minutes).
Add another 1-2 tablespoons of Red Beans and Rice Seasoning, the andouille sausage, ham hocks and cook, stirring to brown the sausage and ham hocks (about 4 minutes).
Add the beans and chicken stock, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and start to thicken (about 2 hours). If the beans begin to dry out or become too thick, add more chicken stock, approximately 1/4 cup at a time.
Remove from the heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy (about another 15 to 20 minutes).
Spoon rice into bowls and top with bean mixture. Serves 4-6. Because this is a salt free seasoning some might prefer to add some salt to the dish.
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