Cooking the Book: Red Beans and Rice
Cajun food is not something I would usually endeavor to make on my own, but I have a feeling I’m going to have to start, or at least add this one to the recipe arsenal: Mr. Kitchenette loved this one. It’s probably the first time he’s really flipped for a recipe out of this cookbook. Don’t get me wrong, I like Cajun food. It’s just something I usually let someone who knows what they’re doing make, the way I would hope a Cajun person would let me make them Italian or Lebanese food. I may have been in new territory, but the recipe definitely made it do-able, plus there was a very happy husband as a result. #Winning.
This meal is packed with really great flavors without having to get a crash course in Cajun cooking. And though it sounds all “beans and rice” humble, all that awesome flavor definitely makes this a good meal to make if you want to impress someone but not be passing out from exhaustion before you sit down to eat.
This one is time consuming, even if you do the quick-soak for the beans. Make sure you read it all the way through so you are not gnawing off your arm on a weeknight while this whole mess still has another half hour of cooking to go. Once the pot is going, it’s mostly hands-off time, but it’s still time, which moves twice as slow when you’re hungry.
I just hope that if you want to make this, wherever you are, you have access to good andouille sausage. I know the note says you can substitute kilbasa, but I think the andouille is what really makes it.
Also, this is not a place where you can cut corners by using canned or otherwise pre-cooked beans. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to figure out a measurement for pre-cooked beans, given how much larger they get going from dried to rehydrate (which you can see in the photo below).
We did have a little bit of actual leftovers, but it would barely qualify as a lunch portion and probably would not have existed if I had been hungrier when dinnertime rolled around (I told you it was time consuming at the beginning, so if you find yourself snacking while soaking your beans, well, I warned you. And you might have some leftovers).
Cajun Red Beans and Rice
From Cooking for 2, 2011
For the starch from the beans to thicken in the cooking liquid, it is important to maintain a vigorous simmer in step two. Kilbasa can be substituted for the andouille.
6 ounces dried small red beans (about 1 cup), picked over rinsed and salt soaked*
1 slice bacon, chopped fine
1 small onion, minced
1 celery rib, minced
1 small green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
4 cups water
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 ounces andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
1 recipe Simple White Rice**
2 scallions sliced thin
Hot sauce (optional)
Drain beans thoroughly, discarding soaking liquid and rinse well. Cook bacon in large saucepan over medium heat until browned and almost fully rendered, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in onion, celery and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in garlic, paprika, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans, water and broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until beans are just soft and liquid begins to thicken, 45 to 60 minutes.
Stir in sausage and continue to cook until liquid is thick and beans are fully tender and creamy, about 25 minutes longer. Remove and discard bay leaf; season with salt pepper and vinegar to taste (beans can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days). Serve over rice, sprinkling with scallions and passing hot sauce separately, if desired.
* Salt soaking: The cookbook offers up two different versions of this, one overnight (6 ounces beans + 1 tablespoon salt + 5 cups cold water in a bowl at room temperature for at least 8 and up to 24 hours), which works just as well if you set it up in the morning and to make dinner at night, I’m sure. The other I employ often and refer to as The I Forgot to Soak the Beans Method (6 ounces beans + 1 tablespoon salt + 5 cups cold water in a pot, bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover, let stand 1 hour). Sure it’s an hour long process but it’s not a quick recipe in the first place. And spending an hour hot-soaking beans is better than having no beans for dinner at all.
** Simple White Rice, if you really need to be told this, consists of 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, 3/4 cup rinsed long-grain white rice, 1 1/4 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toast the rice for 2 minutes in the hot oil before adding the water and salt, cover, cook ’till it’s not crunchy. The end. If you don’t already know how to make rice, I’m a little surprised you’re here.