Red Beans n' Rice: New Orleans' Monday Tradition
Monday is here and that means Red Beans and Rice! Well that's what Monday means for this New Orleans girl and many New Orleanians that carry on this tradition. Growing up, red beans, rice and sausage were a common Monday meal in my household. I recall getting home from a long day of school and dance team practice, taking a long nap and waking up to the aroma of red beans and rice. Also, in my elementary and high school cafeteria, red beans and rice were served on Mondays at least once a month if not more.
This tradition goes back to the days when women scheduled Mondays as their washday. Sunday dinner's ham would leave a ham hock perfect for seasoning the red beans for Monday's meal. This low maintenance meal could be started first in the morning, simmer on the stove all day with little fuss, while the ladies would get their wash and housework completed to start the week. Red beans and rice are an excellent bang for the buck and can feed a whole gathering of people. This affordable, protein-packed meal is a filling, simple dinner for the family. If you are cooking for one or two, then no worries because this meal freezes beautifully. Portion the leftovers into 3-4 servings, which will give you 3-4 dinners within the next couple of months. When you are ready for them, take the frozen beans out of the freezer in the morning allowing all day for the beans to thaw. Pop them in the microwave or simmer the beans stove top to reheat. Steam up some rice and dinner is served. Red beans and rice also makes for a great football party meal during the cool winter months. I always remember when my husband, his brother and friends went to an Eagles-Cardinals game on a freezing cold, rainy day. The guys came back chilled to the bone, exhilarated from the Eagles win, and starving. Luckily, I had been cozily tucked inside simmering my red beans all day, which were hot and ready for these hungry guys. The pot was clean in minutes! My red beans recipe is a bit simpler than recipes that call for ham hocks and soaking beans overnight. Feel free to do those things if you have the time and the hock, but for those who don't try it this way.
Lizzy M.'s Red Beans n' Rice and Sausage
1 package dry dark red kidney beans, rinsed and sorted (pick out any bad beans in the bunch)
3 medium yellow onions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 beef bouillon cube
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 dried bay leaves
2 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp crushed red pepper or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
6 cups water
1 lb Andouille sausage, smoked sausage or Kielbasa sausage (whatever you like and have available at your local markets)
Extra virgin olive oil
Dash of Tabasco
Dash of Tony's Chachere's
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Green onion, diced
2 cups long grain white rice, uncooked
After rinsing and sorting the red beans, soak the dry beans with 3 bay leaves in 6 cups of water for one hour. (Canned dark red kidney beans are fine to work with as well. However the canned beans do lose much of the red color that the fresh beans offer. If using canned beans, drain out the liquid and rinse the beans well. Of course, the canned beans require no soaking and cut down the cooking time to about an hour.) While soaking the beans, dice the yellow onions and celery. Also slice the sausage into thin discs. To lighten this meal, use turkey sausage or a lower-fat sausage.
In a large saute pan, heat up a small drizzle of olive oil. Once heated, add the onions, celery and sausage. Season while sauteing with salt, black pepper, a sprinkle of Tony's Chachere's and a few dashes of Tabasco. Saute for 10 minutes on medium to high heat. Then set aside.
After the hour of soaking is over, turn the heat on the pot of red beans to medium-high heat. Add the remaining spices of thyme, red pepper or cayenne, Tony's Chachere's, Tabasco, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. When the beans come to a boil, add the beef and chicken bouillon cubes, the tomato paste, and the saute of sausage, onions and celery. With a hand grater or microplane, grate 3 garlic cloves directly into the pot.
The beans should boil rapidly for the first hour, stirring often. Bring the boil down to a simmer after the first hour and continue to cook and stir occasionally until the beans are tender. When the beans are tender, smash some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon against the sides of the pot. This will break down some of the beans giving a creamy texture. Taste the beans and adjust the seasoning if need be. Continue cooking for 30 minutes after this point. While the beans finish, cook long grain white rice as directed to serve with the red beans.
Serve the beans piping hot over the freshly cooked white rice. Garnish with a spoonful of diced green onion. Hot, garlic French bread and a light green salad would be the perfect addition to round out this Monday night meal. If your a fan of beans, sausage and spice, then please give this comforting dish a try. Be a part of the New Orleans tradition by cooking red beans n' rice on a Monday to spice up the start of your week!