Monday, November 7, 2011

Creole Red Beans & Rice

That's a big ol' pot of love, folks

Well, try my hardest, I didn't quite make my goal of getting a post up this weekend, alas! In part, I actually blame this recipe for my delay, since I was doing my best to take down an entire pot of this tasty Louisiana treat before the week- another goal I didn't quite get to. But I digress. Since moving down here and getting settled, I've been really excited to sample all the local flavors and start working on my own versions of them. So far, my favorite two have been red beans & rice and shrimp po'boys, both of which I have been tinkering with in the new Humble Kitchen (look for a Roasted Shrimp Po' Boy to be appearing soon!). 

Much like a lot of the food that I love to cook and share, this Louisiana staple has its roots in necessity. Beans (either dried or tinned) are a very inexpensive staple, as is plain and simple rice. Naturally, red beans & rice is a great go-to dish that is wildly satisfying to the soul, and also a comfort to the wallet. Since I am now a stay at home mama, I am not only charged with taking care of our little love, but also taking care of my big love and making sure that they are both well-fed. The babe is pretty easy, so most of my food focus is on keeping Kyle and I well fed on a very tight budget. So after a little research (mostly on Epicurious and Food Network as well as the back of the bag of small red beans I purchased!) I started to piece together my recipe from what I had on hand, and what I could spend out of my budget. My method for rehydrating the beans was done somewhat out of error (I had meant to soak the beans overnight, but forgot the night before), but I think it still turned out very well, just be sure to start the beans early in the day if you plan on having them that night, or keep it simple and do an overnight soak. 

I've got to take a moment and give a little respect to the guy manning the meat counter at our local Albertson's- not only was he incredibly knowledgeable about their offerings, he had a lot of great suggestions for how to use their various meats & fish offerings-  very inspiring! It's amazing to walk into a run of the mill grocery store and be greeted by such a beautiful meat/fish counter with so many offerings from local sources, truly awesome!

I'm not sure exactly how "authentic" my red beans & rice came out to be, but I feel confident that it was a good representation of the local flavor. It's a great way to stretch your dollar and fill hungry bellies without feeling like you're skimping. 

Red Beans & Rice (pieced together from sources noted above)

-1 lb bag of dried small red beans, picked over & rinsed
- 3/4 lbs fresh cajun sausage (Andouille works very well)
- 3 stalks of celery with leaves, washed & diced small
- 1/2 a sweet onion, diced small
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced fine
- 3 tbspns Creole seasoning (I used a mix of "Slap Ya Mama" and "Cajun Land")
- Louisiana hot sauce (I used Crystal "Extra Hot"), optional
- Sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- Olive oil

-1 cup long grain rice, prepared to package instructions

After picking over and rinsing beans well, combine with six cups of water and a hearty sprinkling of salt in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Lower temp to just barely simmering, cover almost full with lid (leaving a small opening for steam to escape), and leave beans to fully soften- about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If liquid level drops below beans, add more water accordingly. When beans are fully cooked, mash about half the beans with a potato masher or a large wooden spoon- this will help thicken the liquid and give a great texture to the final product. 

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add sausage and a little water (1/4" or so) and steam until sausage is cooked through (if working with pre-cooked sausage, skip this step). Remove sausage from pan and pour off water. When cool enough to handle, slice sausages into diagonal rounds. Return pan to stove, add a light coating of olive oil and saute sausage rounds until golden brown. Transfer sausage into Dutch oven with beans and stir to combine. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and saute celery and onion (1/2 a green pepper diced up is also a great addition if handy) until softened and onions become translucent but not brown. Add in garlic and continue to cook an additional 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Season vegetables with Creole seasonings to taste, and add into bean & sausage mixture. After combining all elements, check for seasoning and adjust accordingly, adding additional Creole seasoning, salt & pepper and hot sauce if using. Allow mixture to come together over low heat for a couple of hours if possible- the longer, the better!

To serve, ladle beans over servings of cooked white rice, and serve with hot sauce, ice cold beers and big hunks of french bread for sopping up the sauce. 

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