What We’re Cooking This Week: Louisiana-Style Red Beans and Rice

My version of red beans might make intransigent New Orleans traditionalists mad.

Red beans and rice. (Jim Dixon)

New Orleanians ate red beans and rice on Mondays because it was laundry day, and they cooked their red beans on the stove while the wash water heated. Or maybe it’s because they needed to use the hambone leftover from dinner on Sunday. Nobody really knows for sure how the tradition started, and lots of folks in the Crescent City eat red beans and rice any day of the week. And while many insist that only red kidney beans are acceptable, white beans and rice, identical to the red bean version except for the color of the beans, is considered a Louisiana classic as well. In both the beans are flavored with smoky pork and the aromatics called the holy trinity in the South: onion, celery, and green bell peppers.

My version of red beans might make intransigent New Orleans traditionalists mad. I rarely make them with red kidney beans, and I cook the beans in the oven, the other ingredients separately, and then combine them just before serving. But I’ll put them up against the classic version any day when it comes to flavor.

Serve these in a shallow bowl with a scoop of cooked rice and, if you’re feeling ambitious, some whole grain olive oil cornbread. Sliced green onions are the classic garnish, and Crystal hot sauce is essential.

Louisiana-Style Red Beans and Rice

For the beans

½ pound small red or pink beans (red kidney beans also work)

3-4 cups water

1 tablespoon kosher style sea salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the other stuff

½ pound smoked sausage, cut into half or quarter rounds*

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried red pepper*

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher-style sea salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sliced green onion to garnish

*If you don’t use the smoked sausage, add some smoked paprika. Instead of plain red pepper you can use a Cajun-style blend such as Tony Chachere’s or Slap Ya Mama, but taste before adding any more salt since most are quite salty.

Combine the dry beans, water, salt, and olive oil in an ovenproof pot with a lid. Cook in the oven at 250 degrees for about 3 hours or until the beans are very tender. If you smell them while they’re cooking, you may need to add more water, but just enough to barely cover the beans.

Use a heavy skillet to cook the sausage over medium heat until well browned. Add the onion, celery, and jalapeño and cook until the vegetables are very soft and browned. Add the garlic, thyme, red and black pepper, and salt. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, then add the beans (you may have to use a larger pot if your skillet is too small). Cook for another 10-15 minutes, then serve in bowls with cooked rice and the green onions.

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