Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ary Jean’s Red Beans and Rice


Today a group of food bloggers are celebrating the birthday of one of our most famous story tellers and cooks, none other than the witty and ever generous Michael Lee West of Rattlebridge Farm, whose blog features recipes and style for exhausted people. Michael Lee is first and foremost a Southerner who grew up on the Gulf coast and descended from generations of scratch cooks. She is the author of nine books, including Consuming Passions, a delightfully charming and hilarious food memoir, filled with quirky aunts and secret family recipes.

In an easy, talkative style, you’ll soon think you’re chatting about family with a close friend. Characters such as Aunt Tempe, Aunt Dell, Aunt Hettie, Uncle Bun, and her marvelous Mama seem to leap off of the page. They are all old fashioned southern cooks whose greatest pleasure came from cooking for their family and friends, but often they kept their secrets close to their heart.

Photo courtesy of Amazon 

In a family ruled by food that dominated their holidays and get-togethers, Michael Lee’s Aunt Hettie soon realized that with each death their culinary history was vanishing. At one funeral Aunt Hettie pulled her aside and said, “This is a shame. What a loss.” Thinking she was speaking of the relative about to be buried, Michael Lee was shocked when Aunt Hettie moaned, “She’s taken her gingerbread recipe to the grave.”

"Every Sunday, the whole family gathered at Mama Hughes's house in Amite County, Mississippi. They were ferocious eaters and talkers, devouring rumors and innuendo with gusto. Food was their common language, and everyone understood the dialects." -- Aunt Tempe, reminiscing about family dinners

Aunt Dell is an eccentric Southern character and the source of many juicy tales. “Some women are just prone to grease fires. They attract them the way other gals attract men. Both types eventually go up in smoke.” – Aunt Dell, chocolate connoisseur and crazy woman, talking about an insurance adjuster, 1990.

In the chapter titled “Funeral Food,” Michael Lee notes that funeral dishes must be easy to transport as well as appealing to the bereaved. Some foods are simply inappropriate. “I myself have never seen appetizers at a funeral,” she writes. “This is not a time to bring Better than Sex cake of Death by Chocolate.”

Mama is my favorite character in the book. “Just don’t ask her for a recipe,” Michael Lee says. “She likes to be the family’s sole source of perfect food. Mama doesn’t like rivals in the kitchen. Her motto is never share men or recipes because something is bound to get stolen.”

Well, luckily for us, her Mama did share many of her recipes, including her red beans and rice that I’ve featured today. As a southerner, I’ve eaten my share of red beans and rice through the years, but Ary Jean’s is by far THE best I’ve ever tasted. It has a very nice depth of flavor, yet it’s not overpowered by too much of a smoky flavor. I took the liberty of replacing the green bell pepper with some colorful red, yellow, and orange peppers and added some kielbasa for my husband who thinks red beans and rice aren’t complete without some sausage. And whatever you do, don’t forget the rice.

Happy birthday Michael Lee!


Ary Jean’s Red Beans and Rice
From Consuming Passions by Michael Lee West – serves 6 - 8

2 cups dried red beans
Bacon or country ham
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (I used a yellow onion)
1 cup chopped celery
4 green onions, green tops and bottoms, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (I substituted a cup of chopped red, yellow, & orange peppers)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & ribs removed, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
1 smoked ham hock, optional but highly recommended
1 ½ cups chopped in chunks and sautéed kielbasa or other smoked sausage such as andouille, optional
Your favite white recipe to serve 6
Hot sauce for passing at the table

Wash 2 cups of dried red beans. Soak in water overnight. The next morning, rinse the beans in a colander and drain well. If you forget to soak your beans the night before as I sometimes do, here’s a link to the “quick soak method” that will rescue you.

In a Dutch oven, fry the bacon or country ham in the olive oil. Sauté the chopped vegetables, stirring, until the onions are clear. Add the flour and stir, making a sort of roux. Let it brown, taking care not to burn. ! A ham bone is a nice complement (and I highly recommend), giving depth and smoke to your beans. Add the drained beans, 1 quart water, and the wine. Put on a lid and cook the beans over a very low flame for 4 to 5 hours (mine were done in 3 hours). Stir occasionally. Serve with hot cooked white rice. Pass the hot sauce for those who like their beans on the spicy side.



Consuming Passions is a combination of what I love best – food and reading about people who love food. It’s the kind of book you’ll treasure and read again and again. If you love the South, don’t miss Consuming Passions. You’ll find that all of Michael Lee West’s books are as addicting as her Key Lime Pie.


Join the others as we wish Michael Lee a very Happy Birthday. 

Jain - A Quiet Life
Jacqueline - Purple Chocolat House
Pattie - Olla-Podrida

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This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.  
Have a great weekend everyone.





47 comments:

  1. A great combination! That dish looks really appetizing.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Boy this looks great Sam, even at 5AM! Ham, sausage and beans, can't go wrong! The book sounds like fun too:@)

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  3. This looks delicious. I have to go wish Michael a Happy Birthday.

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  4. Yum! I want to make this tonight ;o) I'm sure the queen of southern novels will enjoy this birthday post.

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  5. Sam, Ary Jean’s Red Beans and Rice looks mouth watering with the addition of those colorful peppers and kielbasa! It's been a long time since I've snorted and chuckled my way through the pages of Consuming Passions :) Thanks for the grins, delicious food, and joining in the fun~ Happy Birthday Michael Lee West!

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  6. What a fitting tribute, Sam, to one of bloglands favorite writers! I can't wait to try your version of red beans & rice & I know my very Polish DH will approve of the addition of sautéed kielbasa. Tell Meakin we said "great idea"!

    fondly,
    Rett

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  7. Sam, what a lovely Southern tribute to our friend, Michael Lee. I love all the quotes you've included from Consuming Passions. The characters that Michael Lee writes about are so colorful and fun. Your Ary Jean's Red Bean and Rice is making me want to make a pot for dinner tonight!! Happy Birthday, Michael Lee. xo

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  8. Sam, Consuming Passions was one of my very favorite books of all Michael Lee's books. It was so powerful -- each character was so interesting and all the food was fascinating. Your red beans dish looks delicious. I can imagine having this for dinner on a cold evening. Happy birthday Michael Lee! Linda

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  9. Great write up Sam and love your photos. I haven't had the honor of reading Michael Lee's books yet, but will certainly do so now.

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  10. Your photographs are magazine worthy and for someone like me who cooks once in a while they inspire me. Thank you for the birthday tribute to Michael Lee. I learned so much and want to read her books. Happy Birthday, Michael Lee.

    My husband has enjoyed reading Michael Tucker's book that you recommended about Italy since our trip there. I want to reread it also. Our trip was fabulous and I have one post up on Rome.

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  11. I am familiar with all of MLW's books, but haven't read any of the older ones yet. I must get Consuming Passions asap after reading your funny excerpts! I am not a fan of red beans and rice, but your photographs just might change my mind! Now your frittata also has me drooling! Thanks for the recipes and tips!
    Jenna

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  12. What a beautiful dish of red beans and rice. A perfect old fashioned dish and you make it so beautifully. I love the foodie parts of our birthday girl's books too! Happy birthday Michael Lee

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  13. I have only recently discovered this treat. This version and its back story make it all the more comfortable.

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  14. Sam, this is the one book of MLW's that I don't own. I need to get a copy asap. My husband loves red beans and rice. I'll have him make this soon.
    Thanks for the recipe.
    Fun post to honor our friend, Michael Lee. ~ Sarah

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  15. I have loved red beans and rice since watching Satchmo Armstrong cooking it on the Mike Douglas show on TV so long, long ago. This sounds delicious.

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  16. oh how i love your tribute! its been so long since i read this i feel the need to sit down and reread all her books now that we have had such a wonderful glimpse into her real life from her blog and photos. she is so darn funny, i love all the quotes you are sharing, my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard!

    your read beans and rice look like an art form, gorgeous pics steeped in family lore!

    love love loved your post, thank you so much for joining in, its such a treat to see how everyone shares a piece of michael lee today! happy birthday mlw!

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  17. We eat lots of red beans, but I have never thought of serving them with rice. It looks really inviting!

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  18. Red Beans and Rice - so glad you picked my favorite to celebrate Michael Lee's birthday!

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  19. I have eaten it, but never made it myself. Now I'm going to give it a try. I could go for a bowl right now. Great post!

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  20. Looks tasty, and I know my husband would love this. Thanks for sharing, Sam.

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  21. Sam, your photos are so mouthwatering, I am suddenly lonesome for home. My mother will be tickled to know that you made her red beans. So happy you liked her recipe! For years, she kept it to herself. When I was working on CP, she mailed a few of her closely guarded receipts. There is no telling what she omitted (seriously!). Even now, she won't tell me how to replicate her meatballs (a fusion of spaghetti and magic, with a taste that makes angels forget what they're doing and fly into mountains). That's mama! I can't thank you enough for this touching post and for cooking a dish that is so close to my heart. xxoo

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  22. do you know I was completely against red beans and rice until about 3 years ago. I finally made myself try it- It wasnt that I didn;t like it I didn't know what it taste like I just didn't like the idea of it! Crazy huh especially for a southern cook! LOL! Love your version! Must try this next

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  23. Looks delicious Sam and I like the color from the peppers. I'm with Meakin on the sausage requirement.

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  24. I love Michael Lee, and this looks just wonderful, Sam!

    Love you, too!

    xo,

    Sheila

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  25. I love Michael Lee, and this looks just wonderful, Sam!

    Love you, too!

    xo,

    Sheila

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  26. This sounds fantastic, Bookmarked for cooking when it gets just a wee bit colder, Have a good week Diane

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  27. Looks great! We love beans and rice . And the cook=book sounds like a great read.

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  28. Wow, this looks great. I never ate beans with rice, I definitely have to try it!

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  29. Really a fun post, Sam. And I loved that comment about taking a gingerbread recipe to the grave. My mother and grandmother rarely wrote anything down so I feel the same way. The only way I got some of the recipes was to sit in the kitchen and write as they cooked. But I missed so many!
    The beans and rice looks delicious and so colorful! Most beans and rice I've eaten (especially the one from the Conch Shack) are so boring looking that they're not worth a photo. But your combination in this one is flavorful and perfect to photograph!

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  30. looks great love red beans and fun ingredients in here

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  31. I love reading about southern food and southern story tellers are the best.

    A good bowl of red beans and rice is soulful. LOve it.

    Velva

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  32. What a wonderful review, Sam. I'll have to search out the book and definitely have to try the red beans and rice. Have a terrific weekend. Blessings...Mary

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  33. This recipe for Red Beans and Rice looks particularly great. I might add more veggies..."Consuming Passions" sounds like a terrific read. Thank you for your wonderful blog. I always enjoy visiting!

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  34. Mmm. It looks hearty and comforting. Sounds like a good book!

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  35. I love this kind of food, Sam, you just don't see enough of it on food blogs these days...and I must say it's a challenge to make beans and rice look yummy in photos, and you did it!

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  36. It gave me great pleasure to read your post/tribute to Michael Lee West. I fell in love with her books when I first read Crazy Ladies, She Flew the Coop, and American Pie .... all leading up to Consuming Passions. They are all, especially Crazy Ladies, what we Southerners would call a real hoot! Very funny! A note to your readers: Should you ever have a chance to meet Michael Lee West at a book reading/signing, it's an occasion you shouldn't miss. A belated Happy Birthday to Michael Lee West!

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  37. I love Michael's blog and the recipe you shared with us on foodie friday today.

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  38. Very funny lines! We do treasure our family recipes - and I've been lucky to get some of the best, before they headed to the "great beyond." The red beans and rice is wonderfully Southern!

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  39. This looks delicious.

    You're always welcome at Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper

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  40. Hi Sam,
    I just love your birthday post for Michael, that was the sweetest thing that you'al did for her. It is truly time for Red Beans and Rice, I have them on my menu next week. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome recipe with Full Plate Thursday. Have a great week and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

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  41. They sound like my Cuban family. This dish is also very typical of the beans they use in the Eastern part of Cuba...red, instead of black. There are so many similarities between both styles of cooking, including ingredients and combinations as a result of trading between Havana and the ports of New Orleans, Savannah and Charleston in those days. Shrimp Creole is one that readily comes to mind. Nice choice.

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  42. Sounds like a great read - and this rice and beans is wonderful. I can almost taste it reading the recipe - GREAT ingredients and flavors
    Mary x

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  43. You're always welcome at Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper

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  44. For me, red beans and rice would be a perfect birthday meal!

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  45. My first taste of really good red beans and rice was on a trip to New Orleans. This recipe also looks delicious, Sam. Michael Lee is so talented! It was so nice that so many bloggers came out to wish her a special happy birthday!

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  46. Dear Sam, A classic and delicious dish. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

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