My Citizens, few cities have as delicious and historic a cuisine as the Big Easy – New Orleans! I have written up many of my favorite versions of the classic Creole and Cajun dishes here on TFD, but this dish is as iconic as they come – red beans and rice!
Red beans and rice is an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine (not originally of Cajun cuisine) traditionally made on Mondays with red beans, vegetables (bell pepper, onion, and celery), spices (thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf) and pork bones as left over from Sunday dinner, cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice.
Meats such as ham, sausage (most commonly andouille and Chaurice), and tasso ham are also frequently used in the dish. The dish is customary – ham was traditionally a Sunday meal and Monday was washday. A pot of beans could sit on the stove and simmer while the women were busy scrubbing clothes. The dish is now fairly common throughout the Southeast. Similar dishes are common in Latin American cuisine, including moros y cristianos and gallo pinto.
Red beans and rice is one of the few New Orleans style dishes to be commonly served both in people’s homes and in restaurants. Many neighborhood restaurants continue to offer it as a Monday lunch special, usually with a side order of either smoked sausage or a pork chop.
While Monday washdays are largely a thing of the past, red beans remain a staple for large gatherings such as Super Bowl and Mardi Gras parties. Indeed, red beans and rice is very much part of the New Orleans identity. New Orleanian Louis Armstrong’s favorite food was red beans and rice – the musician would sign letters “Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong”.
The vegetarian dish Rajma chawal is very similar (which translates literally to red beans and rice), and is very popular in Northern India. Red beans and rice is also a dietary staple in Central America, where it is known as “arroz con habichuelas”. The dish is popular in Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Haitian and Jamaican cuisine as well.
Red kidney beans or small red beans are used and they are usually (but not always) soaked beforehand.
The dish is very nutritious. Rice is rich in starch, an excellent source of energy. Rice also has iron, vitamin B and protein. Beans also contain a good amount of iron and an even greater amount of protein than rice. Together they make up a complete protein, which provides each of the amino acids the body cannot make for itself.
In addition, rice and beans are common and affordable ingredients, often available in difficult economic times.
Citizens, whilst I always try and improve upon recipes, this inter-related suite of recipes from gumbopages.com and its owner, Chuck Taggart, simply cannot be bettered! I heartily endorse his use of both pickled pork and pickled onions, and I am supremely confident you will be a convert to this humble but delicious dish once you try his version! 🙂
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- Pickled Pork:
- 2 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 quart distilled white vinegar
- ½ cup mustard seed
- 1 tablespoon celery seed
- 2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and cracked (not smashed)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 12 peppercorns
- 1 pound red kidney beans, dry
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 5 ribs celery, chopped
- As much garlic as you like, minced (I like lots, 5 or 6 cloves)
- 1 large smoked ham hock, ¾ pound of Creole-style pickle meat (pickled pork), or ¾ lb. smoked ham, diced, for seasoning – TFD enjoys a combo of smoked ham and pickle meat, to a total of ¾ pound
- 1 to 1-½ pounds mild or hot smoked sausage or andouille, sliced on the bias
- ½ to 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- As many dashes Crystal hot sauce or Tabasco as you like, to taste
- A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Creole seasoning blend, to taste; OR,
- red pepper and black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste
- Fresh Creole hot sausage or chaurice, links or patties, grilled or pan-fried, one link or patty per person (optional)
- Pickled onions (optional but recommended)
- 2–3 pounds tiny yellow onions (up to 1 inch diameter)
- 1 gallon cool water
- ¼ cup salt
- 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons sweet basil
- 6 small bay leaves
- 1 quart distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons liquid crab boil
- 2 drops red food coloring (optional)
- For the pickled onions:
- Peel the onions and place in a glass or plastic container — not metal! Mix the water and salt, pour over the onions and let soak overnight.
- The next day, take clean canning jars and sprinkle some of the red pepper, basil and bayleaf on the bottom. Pack the onions to ⅓ level, then repeat in layers.
- When the jars are packed, mix the vinegar, water, crab boil and food coloring (if desired) and pour over onions. Cap the jars and refrigerate for at least one week before using. If you increase the amount you’re making, just maintain a 3:1 ratio of vinegar to water.
- For the Pickled Pork:
- Combine everything except the pork in a non-reactive saucepan and boil for three minutes. Cool and place in a refrigerator container (plastic, glass or stainless-steel) and add the pork. Stir to remove bubbles. Cover and refrigerate for three days.
- For the Red Beans and Rice:
- It’s not necessary to soak the beans overnight, but you can if you want to. If you do, drain the water and cover the beans with a double volume of fresh water in the pot. (This helps reduce the, um, flatulence factor.) Bring the beans to a rolling boil. Make sure the beans are always covered by water, or they will discolor and get hard. Boil the beans for about an hour, until the beans are tender but not falling apart.
- While the beans are boiling, sauté the Trinity (onions, celery, bell pepper) until the onions turn translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. After the beans are boiled and drained, add the sautéed vegetables to the beans, then add the ham hock (or ham or pickle meat), smoked sausage, seasonings, and just enough water to cover.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2 hours at least, preferably 3, until the whole thing gets nice and creamy. Adjust seasonings as you go along. Stir occasionally, making sure that it doesn’t burn and/or stick to the bottom of the pot. (If the beans are old — say, older than six months to a year — they won’t get creamy. Make sure the beans are reasonably fresh. If it’s still not getting creamy, take 1 or 2 cups of beans out and mash them, then return them to the pot and stir.)
- If you can … let the beans cool, stick them in the fridge, and reheat and serve for dinner the next day. They’ll taste a LOT better. When you do this, you’ll need to add a little water to get them to the right consistency.
- Serve generous ladles-ful over hot white long-grain rice, with good French bread and good beer. I also love to serve grilled or broiled fresh Creole hot sausage or chaurice on the side. Do not serve with a canned-beet salad, like my Mom always used to do. (Sorry, Mom … try something interesting with fresh beets and we’ll talk. :^)
- I like serving a few small pickled onions with my red beans — I chop them up and mix them in with the beans. It’s great! Why does it taste so good? As my sister’s friend (and dyed-in-the-wool New Orleanian) Cherie Valenti would say … “It’s da vineguh!”
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