Red Beans and Rice - Easy to Make, Hard to Sell

Here's a second recipe entry for this week and another example of a really good reliable recipe.

The other day I was extolling the virtues of using a good recipe, even for a simple dish like chili, rather than improvisation. Recipes and improvisation  both have their place, but using a really good, reliable recipe provides a very strong starting point for good home cooking. Notice carefully the phrase "good, reliable".

Unless you were raised in Louisiana and have made red beans and rice since you were a child, you'd certainly  need to seek out a recipe if you decided to cook them. Easily, you'll find many versions. This particular recipe is just about a perfect representation of the classic dish.

It fact, if you were to not follow this recipe almost exactly, it would certainly make it worse. And, it's one of the exceedingly rare examples where I use dried herbs and have not yet modified the recipe to use fresh herbs to maximum effect. The reason for that is that when red beans and rice are made in Louisiana, it would be exceedingly rare to not use dried herbs. My biggest modification is to use at least 50% fresh shrimp or chicken stock instead of water.

The only downside or red beans and rice is serving them to someone who has never heard of, or seen, the dish. It's not really, well, visually appealing. Even for my teenage spicy food eater it took two attempts to get her to try it.

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Classic Red Beans and Rice
Serves at least 8 hearty eaters

1 pound kidney beans, covered with water, soaked overnight
1 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, such as kielbasa
  -- The Texas-style sausages from Chappell Hill, Holmes, Meyer and other hill country purveyors are excellent for this dish.
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, including leaves if you have them, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups liquid, at least 2 cups being fresh shrimp or chicken stock the rest filtered water
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (I had to buy some just for this recipe - never, ever substitute this for real garlic)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (another pretty rare ingredient)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups cooked rice

  1. Slice sausage lengthwise, then cut into 1/4" thick slices (so each piece is a half-moon)
  2. Combine all ingredients except half of the sausage. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 1.5 hours. 
  3. Uncover and simmer for another hour. 
  4. Remove 1 cup of beans, returning any sausage pieces to the pot. Mash the beans until they make a paste. I use an unusual but handy tool called a dough cutter, which has five or six semi-sharp edges. It's a secret weapon in my kitchen used for biscuit dough, guacamole, mashed potatoes and mashing red beans. You can also use the back of a spoon to mash, but it takes longer. 
  5. Return the mashed beans to the pot, add the sausage and simmer for 5 minutes.Serve over rice. 

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