comfort food, new orleans, red beans and rice

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

I found myself chuckling when I read Erik, of PortlandFoodHeads, had made a tasty looking Jambalaya this past Sunday. On the other side of town, around the same time, I was surrounding myself with three different pork products(smoked hock, ham and Andouille sausage) trying to channel my own bit of southern comfort food.

My choice, red beans and rice, was definitely a far cry from what I was making a decade ago as I tried to stretch an overly meager paycheck. Back then there was no glorious smoked pork bits and I was notorious for under cooking beans, mostly out of impatience towards soaking them overnight. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a bit better at the patience part.

A quick Google search sent me to a recipe from Emeril, from the FoodNetwork.com. I have to say that I usually steer clear of anything with either his or Rachel Ray’s name on it, but I do hold a bit of optimism towards his recipes from his adopted hometown of New Orleans. And, to be honest, it was a pretty damn tasty pot of beans and mashing them at the end of the recipe was a bit enjoyable.

The Andouille Sausage was from Niman Ranch and both the smoked ham hock and ham were from Whole Foods. These three, especially the Andouille, made the dish. The heat from the cayenne in the sausage was more than enough to keep the Franks in the fridge. The long simmering time melted the smoked hock meat, which had some nice ‘bark’ on it, off of the bone and were my favorite bites.

Red Beans and Rice
* 1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and sorted over
* 3 tablespoons bacon grease
* 1/4 cup chopped tasso, or chopped ham
* 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
* 3/4 cup chopped celery
* 3/4 cup chopped green bell peppers
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* Pinch cayenne
* 3 bay leaves
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
* 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
* 1/2 pound smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1 pound smoked ham hocks
* 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
* 10 cups chicken stock, or water
* 4 cups cooked white rice
* 1/4 cup chopped green onions, garnish

Directions

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the tasso and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the grease in the pot. Season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, parsley, thyme, sausage, and ham hocks, and cook, stirring, to brown the sausage and ham hocks, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the beans and stock or water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and starting to thicken, about 2 hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time.)

Remove from the heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.

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