Tuesday, February 10, 2009
February is Mardi Gras Month and a great time to serve Red Beans & Rice
Louisiana Red Beans & Rice make a perfect dish to serve as a celebration of Mardi Gras. This year Mardi Gras Day is February 24, also called Fat Tuesday. It is the last day of the Mardi Gras Carnival season, is always forty six days before Easter and therefore falls on a different day each year. More information on Mardi Gras, its customs, the parades and Louisiana cuisine can be found on the Mardi Gras Day website.
Red Beans & Rice is believed to have originated with African-American cooks on plantations in Louisiana. Today it is a New Orleans favorite that you will find from fine restaurants to home kitchens and everyone has a different recipe. Here’s our favorite version.
New Orleans Red Beans & Rice
2 quarts water
1 lb. red kidney beans (soaked overnight in water to cover)
3 slices thick bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 lb. thick ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 yellow onion and 1 red onion (about one pound), diced
½ of a red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Louisiana hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Cooked brown rice tossed with fresh flat leaf parsley
Drain soaked beans and put back in soup pot with fresh water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down and simmer, slowly, covered.
In a saute pan over medium heat, cook bacon until done, crumble and set aside. Discard most of the pan drippings and add the olive oil. Add the sausage and ham and cook over medium high flame until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage and ham to a plate.
Add the onion and red bell pepper to the drippings in the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add thyme and tomato paste. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture comes together and the paste starts to turn a light brown, being careful not to burn. Transfer the onion mixture to the bean mixture, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan. Add the bay leaf and parsley. Cook until beans are soft and almost ready to eat, approximately one hour. You may need to add more water if the beans get dry. Season with salt, pepper, and add bacon, sausage and ham to the pot and stir to combine. Add hot sauce to taste.
Remove the bay leaf and discard. If it is not thick enough, use the back of a spoon to mash some of the beans against the side of the pot and stir to thicken the broth. Serve in individual bowls over parslied brown rice. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and a hot sauce to taste. Serves 8 to 10.
Note: This is a rich dish, but so is much of southern Louisiana cuisine. We use this for special occasion. You could leave out the bacon and ham to lighten it up. We have also made it vegetarian with good results.
Laisser les bons temps rouler - let the good times roll as they say in Louisiana.