Red Beans and Rice

In Cajun country Monday was traditionally laundry day and the day for making red beans and rice. It is said that in the old days a kettle of beans would share the fire with the pot of hot water for washing clothes. Today both laundry and cooking are far simpler but this is still a great dish to have simmering on the back burner of the stove as you do other things around the house. I use a pressure cooker to speed things up a bit but this is still not a recipe you can rush. You can use canned beans in place of dried and save about an hour. Use four 15-ounce cans, drained.

Note: this recipe makes a big pot of beans—enough for eight people. Even if your family is a lot smaller, go ahead and make the full recipe. The beans keep well for a few days in the refrigerator and can be kept frozen for several months. Like most beans, they are actually better after having cooled and been reheated. Make the rice fresh each time, though.

Serves 8

Ingredients

Red beans, dry

1 pound

Water

8 cups

Bay leaves

4

Dried thyme

1 teaspoon

Andouille sausage

½ pound

Ham

½ pound

Onions, chopped

8 ounces

Celery, chopped

4 ounces

Bell pepper, chopped

4 ounces

Cayenne

½ teaspoon or to taste

Oil

2 tablespoons

Garlic, minced

3 tablespoons

Salt and pepper

To taste

Long-grain white rice to serve

Method

Rinse the beans and pick out any small stones or other debris. Put the beans into a pressure cooker along with the thyme, bay leaves, and water. Cook at high pressure (15 psi) for 25 minutes. Let stand for five minutes before releasing pressure. Allow to cool a bit then drain the beans reserving the cooking liquid.  (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, soak the beans overnight and cook for about an hour.) Put 1½ cups of the beans in a food processor along with ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Puree to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Cut the sausage crosswise into ¼-inch slices and dice the ham. (If the sausage you are using is fatty, render it in a separate skillet to remove some of the grease before using.)

Place an enameled Dutch oven heat or other large pot over medium-low heat and add the oil. Sweat the onions, celery, and bell pepper until they begin to express their water and their colors become intense, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sausage, ham, and garlic. Cook for a further 5 minutes then put in the beans and their cooking liquid. Stir in the bean puree. If the liquid does not cover the beans, add water until it does. Season with a good grind of black pepper and salt to taste. Simmer, uncovered, for 1½ hours stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When the beans start to stick to bottom of the pot they are ready. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. The beans should be soft and creamy but not soupy. Serve over plain white rice.

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