My all time, most loved and hated, Creole Southern food is Red Beans & Rice , but it’s been an essential part of my Southern culture. Southern Culture, in general, is one giant melting pot, pulling from all continents and cultures, which is most prevalent in our cuisine. Red Beans & Rice is a dish adopted from Latin American beans and rice dishes such as Arroz Moros, and blended with the creole way of life including the addition of the trinity; onion, bell pepper, and celery and creole spices. Red Beans & Rice is also the ubiquitous meal I associate with eating 3 days straight when times were tough, to the point of never wanting to see red beans again. So here is “the” Red Beans & Rice recipe that over came it all.
It wasn’t until I was fully cooking, on my own, in college that I learned to love Red Beans and Rice, and under the guidance of my Grandmother I mastered the craft of building the perfect pot of beans. It was a lesson in the culinary arts, which stirred my desire for cooking and Southern food. The biggest lessons learned along the way were about seasoning and flavor profiles. I quickly realized that simply adjusting the amount of garlic, changing the type of sausage, or cooking with a ham hock totally changed the overall quality of a bowl of beans. The complete flavor profile of the dish could be changed by adding or leaving out single ingredients, or completely ruined by over seasoning. I also truly learned what season to taste means, and how to balance the flavors of smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme and Cajun spices. There is also that tricky maneuver of learning when beans are really done, and not just cooked . I actually learned to pick out a bean, pinch it and learn its done texture. I fully believe that if one can master Red Beans & Rice, you can master anything in the Creole Cookbook of Southern foods, and I’ve got my very own recipe and technique to prove it. Stay Hungry Y’all!
-The Hungry Southerner
Classic Southern Red Beans & Rice
- 1lb bag of dry red beans rinsed and soaked (Camelia brand is best if you can find it)
- 3 cups chicken stock (optional)
- 1 large vidalia onion chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper chopped (red and yellow are good too)
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1/4 cup chopped green onion + 1/4 cup chopped green onion (garnish)
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 ham hock
- Andouille Sausage
- 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika or sweet pimenton
- 1/2 tablespoon thyme
- Tony Chachere’s Season To Taste
- 2 Dashes of Tobasco sauce
- 2 cups long grain rice prepared
Prepare the dried red beans by soaking them in water at least 8 hours before cooking, then drain. In a heavy pot, preferably cast iron, saute the vidalia onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic in a few table spoons of butter until the onion is translucent being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the salt, black pepper, cayenne, paprika, bay leaves, green onion & thyme and stir to combine. At this point you can add the chicken stock for extra flavor and stir (Chicken stock is optional, but does add a little extra flavor). Before finishing the saute, add the ham hock to start the fats warming to release the flavors into the pot for about 2 minutes. Add the red beans and cover with water and bring to a boil. Once the pot reaches a boil, allow to boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least 2 hours, then test the texture of the beans by pinching a cooked bean between your fingers making sure its not firm, the skin should fall apart and meat of the bean should mush apart. The consistency of the pot will take on the inner texture of the beans, very rich, brown,creamy and thick. You are looking to cook the beans till they are very soft, but not into a paste or soup. Prepare long grain rice according to package instructions. Once the beans are done, stir the pot dragging a wooden spoon along the bottom and sides to crush some of the beans, but do not go over board you don’t want red bean paste, (3 or 4 passes will do) then add the Tobasco and Tony’s. Chop the Andouille into preferred sized bites and saute in a pan till warm, or grill and serve whole pieces. Serve the beans and andouille over warm long grain rice, and garnish with chopped parsley and remaining green onion. Add Tony’s and Tobasco to taste, with a side of warm french bread. Enjoy!