Recipe adapted from Christin Mahrlig’s Red Beans and Rice
Beans and rice are an essential dish in many food cultures influenced by African and Latino cuisines (and in some that weren’t), and have been paired together for thousands of years. In fact, in Central America the combination is known as matrimonio, “the marriage,” asserting their unending and vital bond. While the basic dish is vegetarian, with both the rice and the beans coming together to give the consumer a whole protein (a source of protein containing “an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet”), many versions enhance the taste and nutritional value by adding fish or meat proteins, either on the side, on top, or mixed in. My recipe is deeply embedded in the flavors of Louisiana creole cuisine: rich, savory Andouille sausage and smoky, salty ham play off of the red kidney beans to produce a harmonious whole.
In New Orleans, red beans and rice were traditionally made on Mondays. The beans are added to the pot with the Cajun trinity of bell pepper, onions, and celery, together with sausage and leftover ham bones, melding together and developing their flavors over the course of the entire day over low heat. It’s an economical meal that gives new life to the scraps of Sunday’s dinner, and it could be thrown together in the morning and left to work its magic while women did the wash. In the evening, when the work was done and the family was together, the medley was served over steaming hot rice. There’s something really admirable about a meal that makes so much out of so little. The key thing is to give the dish enough time to really come together and become something more than the sum of its parts—a fact that’s true of any good relationship.
One of the great debates revolving around dishes like these is whether to soak the beans beforehand. Is it really necessary, or is the practice of letting the beans sit in water overnight just a vain ritual? Since my recipe takes a pro-soaking position, I figured I’d address that here. Food writer Claire Lower puts it bluntly: “Though conventional wisdom suggests soaking your beans for a long period of time not only speeds up the process, but helps reduce gas” due to the fact that it removes “some of the sugars responsible for beans’ infamous digestive issues…most of the data supporting this is anecdotal.” And it is true, my reasons for soaking the beans come purely from my own personal experience. I’ve found that without a proper soaking, my beans do take longer to cook, have come out mealy on occasion, and can be harder to digest. So if you want to skip soaking overnight, do a shorter soak, or not soak them at all, that’s totally your call. This recipe would even work well with canned beans—I’d suggest 3 cans, and to use less chicken stock since they won’t be soaking up that extra liquid. Bear in mind that of course the cook time will be shorter with canned beans as opposed to dried.
1 lb dry red kidney beans
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 lb Andouille sausage, sliced into ½” half-moons
3 cups diced yellow onion
2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced red bell pepper
5 cloves of garlic, minced
5 cups chicken or pork stock, preferably homemade
Leftover hambone with some meat still on it (or 1 ½ lb smoked ham hock)
1 TBSP firmly packed brown sugar
3 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp rubbed sage
½ tsp chipotle chili powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup scallion, finely chopped
Hot cooked rice, to serve
Place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with water to soak overnight. In the morning, rinse well and set aside.
In a crockpot with a skillet function, add the oil and heat over high to medium-high heat (400F). Add the Andouille sausage and cook until browned, about 5 minutes; remove and set aside. Reduce heat to medium (300F). Add the onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Raise heat back to medium high (350F) and add the celery and bell peppers and cook for about 3 minutes, until just beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook one minute, until fragrant.
Deglaze the crockpot with a generous splash of chicken stock, then add the beans, Andouille sausage, and the rest of the stock. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the scallions and parsley) and stir well. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours, or until the beans are softened.
Top with the parsley and the scallion and serve over hot rice.