Recently I had a lively discussion concerning the preparation of red beans with some friends, natives of Louisiana,over the taste of fresh cooked red beans and of those Blue Runner, a brand originally found in their home state. I must admit the taste of Blue Runner Red Beans is good, but for my taste nothing beats a slow cooked day old pot of red beans , Andouille sausage, steamed rice and French bread.
In the preparation of red beans and rice, red kidney beans (I prefer the brand Camellia Rose) or small red beans are used and they are usually (but not always) soaked beforehand. Vegetables onion, celery ,bell pepper and usually a bit of garlic are sautéed briefly. The vegetables should be diced finely so that they will melt away once the dish is done. Meat is also a typical component of seasoning for the dish, with ham, tasso, pickled pork (pork shoulder marinated in brine for over a week); a substitute for pickled pork is salt pork (with salt pork eliminate all other salt in the recipe) and Andouille sausage being common ingredients. Sausage may be cooked and served separately or may be sliced and incorporated into the beans during cooking.
The meat may be sautéed along with the vegetables or added directly to the beans. Some people will cook smoked sausage with the beans, but traditionally, sausage or pork chops were cooked on the side. Seasoning includes salt, thyme, bay leaf, basil and cayenne pepper.
Red beans typically take about two hours or more to cook, although it is common to allow the beans to cook slowly for a longer period of time. Finished red beans range from soup-like consistency to a creamier texture, though the latter is more common. Though the creaminess of the finished dish may vary greatly between preparations, the beans themselves should never be overly firm or crunchy. To increase the creaminess of the beans, some cooks choose to mash up to a quarter of the beans in the last half hour or so of cooking (smash the beans against the side of the pot using the back of a large spoon).
White rice is cooked separately. When being served buffet style for a party, the rice and beans should be kept apart and assembled as needed by the guests. When served on a plate, the rice is usually mounded in the center, perhaps with a bit of parsley. The beans are spooned all around the rice, and if sausage has been prepared separately a piece is placed on one side. Chopped green onion is an optional garnish, and a bottle of hot sauce should always be available. If you have any leftover red beans put it in the freezer. Just add a little water, and perhaps a pinch of salt to reheat.
- 2 lb. dried red (kidney) beans, soaked overnight in cold water to cover
- 2 c. chopped onion
- ½ c. thinly sliced green shallot (scallion) tops
- ½ c. chopped green pepper
- 1⅓ Tbs. finely minced garlic
- 2 Tbs. finely minced fresh parsley
- 1 lb. seasoning (baked) ham, cut into
- 1-inch cubes
- 1 lb. pickled pork , cut into large chunks
- 1 large ham bone with some meat on it, sawed into 4- to 5-inch lengths
- 1 Tbs. salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ⅛ tsp. cayenne
- ⅛ tsp. crushed red pepper pods
- 2 whole bay leaves, broken into quarters
- ½ tsp. dried thyme
- ⅛ tsp. dried basil
- 2 qt. cold water, approximately
- Steamed Rice
- Drain the soaked beans in a colander and put them, along with all the other ingredients, into a heavy 8- to 10-quart pot or kettle, adding just enough of the cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are tender and a thick natural gravy has formed. Add about 1 cup of water toward the end of cooking if the mixture appears too dry. During cooking, stir frequently and scrape down the sides and across the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon or spatula to prevent scorching. (If you use a heavy pot and very low heat—just high enough to keep the barest simmer going—you should have no problem with beans sticking to the pot during cooking.) Stir the entire mixture thoroughly just once about every half hour.
- When the beans are cooked, turn off the heat. To serve, ladle about 1½ cups of beans, with meat and gravy, over a portion (about ⅔ cup) of boiled rice.