Red Beans and Rice
Red beans and rice is the official Monday dish in New Orleans, found on that day in restaurants of almost every kind all over town. It’s also a good dish to serve on chilly days, of which we’re having quite a few lately. Although most people agree on the recipe, the trend in recent years–especially in restaurants–has been to make the sauce matrix much thicker than I remember growing up with. This version is the old (and, I think, better) style, with a looser sauce.
I have, however, added two wrinkles. One came from a radio listener, who advised that beans improve greatly when you add much more celery than the standard recipe calls for. That proved to be correct. Also, the herb summer savory (sometimes just called “savory” in the spice rack) adds a nice flavor complement. If you can’t find savory, use oregano, or just leave it out.
Red beans are classically served with smoked sausage, but they’re also great with fried chicken, oysters en brochette, or grilled ham. But the ultimate is chaurice–Creole hot sausage–grilled to order and transferred, along with all the dripping fat, atop the beans.
- 1 lb. dried red beans
- 1/4 lb. bacon or fatty ham
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 12 sprigs parsley, chopped
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. savory
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. Tabasco
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
- 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1. Sort through the beans and pick out any bad or misshapen ones. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. When ready to cook, pour off the soaking water.
2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon or ham fat till crisp. Remove the bacon or ham fat and set aside for garnish (or as a snack while you cook).
3. In the hot fat, sauté the bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley and garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the beans and three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the salt, bay leaf, savory, black pepper, and Tabasco.
4. Simmer the beans, uncovered, for two hours, stirring two or three times per hour. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.
5. Mash about a half-cup of the beans (more if you like them extra creamy) and stir them in into the remainder. Add salt and more Tabasco to taste. Serve the beans over rice cooked firm. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley.
The Ultimate: Grill some patties of Creole hot sausage and deposit it, along with as much of the fat as you can permit yourself, atop the beans. Red beans seem to have a limitless tolerance for added fat.
Meatless Alternative: Leave the pork and ham out of the recipe completely, and begin by sautéing the vegetables other than the beans in 1/4 cup of olive oil. At the table, pour extra-virgin olive oil over the beans. This may sound and look a bit odd, but the taste is terrific and everything in the plate–beans, rice, and olive-oil–is a proven cholesterol-lowerer.
Serves six to eight.