I've always enjoyed Creole cooking. This is a style of cuisine that originated with the descendants of colonial settlers in Louisiana, mainly of French, Spanish and African descent. They have given us such popular entrées as Gumbo (a seafood stew), Jambalaya (a mix of meat, vegetables, rice and seafood) and Crayfish Étouffée (shellfish over rice). Add to that, my favorite: Red Beans and Rice (a standby in New Orleans). I daresay there as as many versions of this dish as there are chefs in New Orleans.
Traditionalists claim that New Orleans Red Beans and Rice should be made with small red beans. I'm all for tradition, but I prefer using red kidney beans. This is what I grew up on, along with black beans for Puerto Rican style black beans and rice or, as they term it in Spain and Latin America, "Moros y Cristianos" (Moors and Christians). New Orleans red beans and rice calls for Andouille sausages (a spicy sausage associated with Cajun cuisine). But you can substitute smoked sausages, or (my preference) Spanish chorizo. My version also includes salt pork rather than bacon grease which is normally used for frying. You can find salted pork in almost any market these days. They usually come in 12-ounce packages and give a heartier flavor to stir-fry dishes.
Note that the traditional way to serve this dish is to ladle the beans onto a plate, add a scoop of rice on top and season with a squirt or two of Tabasco. This is the correct procedure, sworn so by New Orleans residents. Diverge from this procedure and you will incur the wrath of the gods.
NEW ORLEANS RED BEANS AND RICE
1 pound dried red beans
1/2 cup salt pork, washed and diced
1/2 cup chopped ham
1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste if you like it spicy)
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 pound chorizo or smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound smoked ham hocks
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
10 cups chicken stock
Cooked white rice (about 4-6 cups)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1. Place beans in a pot or Dutch oven cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak overnight. Drain, place in a bowl and set aside.
2. In the same pot or Dutch oven as before, heat the salt pork over medium high heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring, until pork pieces are well browned (3-4 minutes).
3. Stir in the onion, bell pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, until the onion and bell pepper are soft (about 4 minutes).
4. Add bay leaves, parsley, thyme, chorizo, and ham hocks. Cook, stirring, until chorizo and ham hocks are brown (about 4 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the beans and chicken stock. Stir to mix, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender and the liquid starts to thicken. This should take at least 2 hours or more. If the beans become too thick and dry, you can add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.
6. Remove pot from heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 cup of the beans against the side of the pot. Put back on the burner and continue to cook over low heat until the beans are tender and creamy (about 15 minutes more). Remove the bay leaves and serve with the rice, garnished with scallions.
Yield: 6 servings.
Labels: Cajun cuisine, Crayfish, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Louisiana, Louisiana Creole cuisine, New Orleans, Red beans and rice