I’ll just give it to you straight: red beans ‘n’ rice is not a dish that one eats in California. I didn’t grow up with my mother stirring a large cast iron skillet of anything, much less andouille infused red beans. So upon moving to the South and beginning to date a man from Mississippi with the kind of redneck credibility that I’m keenly aware I’m lacking in, I was quickly challenged to reevaluate my preconception of “red beans ‘n’ rice” as a side dish that I’d never order myself (while disdaining to taste any that Reb ordered and greedily devoured) to a main event worthy of being cooked up in a large batch back in my own kitchen at home.
And while this recipe produces something that would certainly make a wonderful side-dish for a big plate of grilled chicken and vegetables or, really, whatever you like, there’s no need to gild the lily and serve this with anything other than a liberal sprinkling of chopped spring onions and parsley. A big bowlful, as Reb didn’t need to convince me further once I’d lifted the first forkful to my lips, feeds the soul. And I’m telling you, if you’re having an identity crisis, come over to the Southern side for the time it takes to cook this up and feed it to the ones you love (that obviously includes yourself!) Relax. Put on a little zydeco music. Savor it. Leave the dishes in the sink ‘til tomorrow (bonus points if the recipient of your loving cooking volunteers to do ‘em without being asked. Cough. Cough. Pointedly raised eyebrow.) It doesn’t get any easier than this dish, and this happens to be one of those simple pleasures that ought to be enjoyed every so often.
This ain’t that brown goo you see served in some restaurants.
This is the real deal people.
Real Deal Red Beans & Rice
1 lb dried red beans
4 tablespoons bacon grease or oil (save your grease people! It’s gold in the kitchen! I have a jar in my fridge at all times.)
1/2 lb chopped andouille sausage (about 1 1/2 cups; I prefer chicken andouille for a lighter and still flavorful version)
1 onion chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
5-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3 dried bay leaves
1/3 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Place the beans in a large stock-pot and cover with water. Leave them to soak, 8 hours to overnight. (Or, if you’re short on time, bring the picked-over beans to a boil and turn off the heat, covering the pot and allowing the beans to soak in the hot water for at least an hour). In a heavy-bottomed pot or cast iron Dutch oven, heat the bacon grease (or oil) over a medium-high flame until the grease is shimmering. Add in the sliced rounds of sausage and saute until nicely browned, about five to ten minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside. Add in the onion, bell pepper and the celery and saute until translucent, five minutes. Next, add the garlic and the spices and incorporate. Add the beans (along with the liquid), salt, bay leaves, hot sauce and the sausage. Make sure that there’s enough liquid in the pot to cover the entire mixture; if not, add enough until there is. Simmer the mixture until the beans are fork tender and the sauce has thickened, about thirty to forty-five minutes. You may add additional water if it cooks down too low or becomes too thick for your liking. When it’s time to serve, stir in the parsley and half of the green onions, reserving the rest of the green onions for garnish. Serve over white rice.
Perfect White Rice
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white rice
2 tablespoons butter
NOTE: I know, I know. Brown rice is better for you, and it’s what I grew up in eating (in what some might call a hippie-liberal elitist household. Go figure). But sometimes you gotta get up in this like… well, like white on rice. Red beans ‘n’ brown rice just doesn’t have the same ring to it. So set your uber-healthy good intentions aside for one night and have a little helping of these fluffy white carbs.
Bring the salted water to a boil. Add the butter and the rice, stirring until the butter is melted and the mixture has returned to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low for forty minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the dish covered to allow the rice to steam and finish absorbing any additional water, approximately ten minutes. When it’s time to serve, fluff the rice with a fork.