This particular side dish has almost a cult following…simple yet addictive. I admit to driving an hour to the nearest Popeye’s in order to buy ONLY their red beans & rice! Many folks have tried to duplicate it’s rich flavor.
I have already posted a fast version which can be made within a half hour…but here I’d like to show you how to settle in on a cold, raw autumn afternoon, throw together a few ingredients into a soup pot and let it fragrantly simmer on the back of the stove for 4 hours. It takes very little investment in ingredients, little prep time, although a leisurely cooking time but the end product can either feed a crowd or be frozen for future dinners.
I will caution you to use the small red dried beans, not the large kidney beans. Your best mouth feel will be developed with the used of a smoked ham hock or shank which contribute gelatin, fat and a distinctive smoky flavor…not to mention little bits of meat as it breaks down. And start out with a total of 8 cups of liquid…adding 1-2 cups extra if your beans become too thick. I love my red beans concoction to be fairly mushy, but not entirely with the beans broken down….yet liquid enough to mix the rice into that rich gravy…yum! Many recipes don’t simmer long enough to breakdown the beans. I’ve found that 4 hours on a very low heat, uncovered…is precisely the correct time for my particular tastes.
I have included Alton Brown’s technique for making foolproof rice which has the perfect texture for red beans & rice…and also a deep buttery flavor which contributes to the end dish. This is not the same technique nor type of rice that I use to make my mother’s Japanese fried rice, as that requires a sticky, bland rice. So please be aware of the different types of rice, and differing cooking techniques required by different cultures. In this southern dish, basmati or long grain rice, pan roasted first to coat the rice kernel then inundated with boiling hot water and simmered for 20 minutes creates a nutty, fluffy rice. Medium grain rice combined in a saucepan with cold water and brought to a boil, then simmered for 20 minutes provides the requisite sticky rice perfect for fried rice and rice balls. Also, the French bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then dump in the long grain rice, simmer for 20 minutes, drain the whole lot in a colander, pour back into the hot pot and stir momentarily to dry any excess water from the grains… often dotting the resulting fluffy rice, with butter before serving with an entree…yet another foolproof method for perfect rice every time which is very similar to boiling pasta.
1 lb dried small red beans
3 tablespoons bacon fat (I save bacon fat whenever I fry bacon, in a small mason jar and refrigerate)
1 smoked ham hock or shank, or smoked turkey leg
1 lb smoked Kielbasa sausage or Andouille sausage, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 whole medium size green pepper, chopped
3/4 cup diced celery
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
several squirts of Tabasco sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 bay leaves
8 to 10 cups water (I use half chicken stock and half water)
The night before, rinse the dried beans and place in a large bowl, cover with cold water by 2 inches and leave on the counter top overnight to soak. Next day, when ready to proceed, drain the beans and discard the soaking water.
In a large 8 quart soup pot, melt bacon fat and saute the sausage bits until browned. Add the onions, peppers and celery and saute until veggies are translucent. Add the garlic and as soon as you can smell the aroma of the garlic, toss in the ham hock, beans, seasonings and liquids. Bring to a boil and turn down to a low simmer for 4 hours, uncovered.
One half hour before serving, prepare the rice in this fashion for a fluffy, nutty rice to serve with the red beans:
2 cups long grain rice, either white or brown
3 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Before the rice kernels begin to brown, remove the pot from heat and carefully add the hot water to the rice…the hot water hitting the hot butter will create a sputtering cloud which will bubble up then recede as you finish pouring in the water. Lower the heat to lowest sitting, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve by scooping some of the red bean mixture into a bowl and add a scoop of rice on top.