Grandma's Red Beans & Rice

12/05/2011 09:58 am ET | Updated Feb 04, 2012
  • Yvahn Martin Semi-pro Foodie, Retired Dancer, Digital Businesswoman, Expat NOLA-ite

Every Monday.  New Orleans families serve red beans and rice for dinner.  Every family's red beans is different, and everyone has a different method of cooking them.  Some people swear by soaking them overnight about 12 hours, "to get the gas out".  Others add extra bay leaf for the same reason.  My family is in the latter camp, and this recipe takes about two and a half or three hours. It's a really simple thing to make on laundry day, as our forebears discovered long ago.

This is my Grandma's recipe © 1945, when she probably started making them. She will probably yell at me for publishing this, but maybe not. Or maybe we can get a product deal! (Shameless plug.) I've been making red beans and rice a lot lately, not just because this recipe costs less than $20 -- less than $7 without meat -- to make and can feed a family of four with plenty of leftovers (or me for 6 handy frozen meals), but because in thinking of this recession I wonder if "Meatless Mondays" might be a good thing to resurrect. Also, beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber in a vegan or vegetarian diet. Not that my family ever omitted the hamhock. I prefer smoked turkey necks and chicken or turkey andouille sausage, although slab bacon and beef sausage tastes best.

In a vegetarian variation, I simply omit the meat and add extra seasoning to taste (usually cheating w/a bit of worcestershire, which has anchovies in it), everything else is largely the same.  Serves 6-8, but can be easily doubled for parties.

1/2 lb of smoked meat (optional, smoked turkey necks or legs OR slab bacon cut into cubes OR traditionally, ham or picklemeat)
1 lb dried red beans, washed/rinsed
1 medium sized onion
1/4 bell pepper (optional, preferred in veggie)
1/2 pod of garlic, to taste
3-4 bay leaves
3 tablespoons of olive oil (or rendered bacon fat, if you do opt for slab bacon)
1 lb smoked sausage (beef tastes best, or spicy chicken/turkey sausage, pork can be salty)
salt and pepper to taste
1 heaping tsp of sugar

1. Cover the beans in a pot with about 5 inches of water, add smoked meat, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.
2. Sautee finely chopped onions, garlic, and bell pepper in olive oil.  When onions are clear, add them to the simmering beans. Bring heat back up to a low boil for 15-20 minutes or so then reduce heat to a simmer again, covered, for approximately 1 hour. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking.
3. Add salt and pepper, bay leaves, and sugar to taste.
4. Slice smoke sausage into half-inch rounds, add to beans.  Simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until beans are thick and creamy.  The smoked sausage adds a strong extra meaty flavor to the beans...  some folks prefer to BBQ the sausage and serve on the side...

Serve over your favorite rice (I prefer brown), with hot sauce to taste.  Some folks like to put a mayo or mustard dollop in the beans as a garnish (I think it's because their parents really couldn't cook that well).  I like mine plain and good, w/Tabasco and a slice of buttered french bread or toast.  They're also extra delicious and creamy on the second day, after they've had a chance to cool, and great to freeze and reheat on the stove in a pot, just add a splash of water to keep it from burning!

For the record, I cook all beans -- black, white, pinto, lima -- like this, adding things like cumin, lime or lemon juice, celery seed, or garam masala for interesting flavors, especially when forgoing the meat. Do I feel guilty for being only an occasional vegetarian or vegan? No, but I do enjoy having the option and it sure feels great when I exercise it. You've gotta start somewhere, right? It's all about balance, making and taking choices.

Happy Eating! Next time we'll talk about walking it off!

This recipe was originally posted, sans commentary but with photos, here.