It has been suggested that I include recipes on the blog, and I am nothing if not responsive. Be warned, however. I don’t follow recipes except as concepts. But I’ll try. A good opportunity came up when, on the way up to Glastonbury, CT, for Nancy’s high school reunion, we stopped in Rye, NY, for lunch at the Rye Roadhouse, a nice-sounding place that turned out to have a Cajun orientation. I had the red beans and rice with andouille.
The beans had been cooked without meat, or at least without enough meat. That was a shame because the andouille was quite good. It was pretty good, but it could have been so much better. I’m all for having meat on the side with red beans and rice, but you really need to cook the beans with a lot of meat. Here’s how. To serve a table full of people (6-8), you’ll need:
1 lb. dried kidney beans 3 T chopped garlic, plus 4 cloves smashed
1 smoked ham hock 1 large onion, chopped
3/4 lb. hot Italian sausage 1 large bell pepper, chopped
3/4 lb. andouille or other 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
smoked sausage 1-2 pinches cayenne
2-3 T bacon grease (or olive oil) 2-3 bay leaves
8 cups chicken stock 3-4 good shakes of dried thyme
8 or so whole peppercorns
About 1/3 lb. additional smoked sausage per person, chopped spring onions (white and green parts), Tabasco sauce, and Crystal Hot Sauce. You also will need rice, crusty bread, and a green salad. Beer and wine are nice, too.
You will observe that some of these amounts (how large an onion?) are imprecise. You are looking for as much onion as the bell pepper and celery combined: 2 parts onion to 1 part each bell pepper and celery. (This isn’t baking, so precision is not required.) I know it might seem like a lot of garlic, but it really isn’t: the flavor softens when it’s cooked that long, and each dose of garlic adds a different flavor. And you can make substitutions. You can use oil instead of bacon grease. You can use water instead of chicken stock. For that matter, you can use canned beans (a couple of ginormous cans, enough that the pot is almost full) and reduce the amount of stock (or water) to almost zero. If you have access to Conecuh Sausage, by all means use that. If you don’t, get the best smoked sausage you can find. If you think you need more of something, add it. This is America, after all. It will still taste good.
Back to work:
Sort, wash, and soak the beans overnight. Drain the beans and set them aside. Chop the vegetables (about a ¼ inch, maybe 1/2 inch chop). Slice the Italian and smoked sausages into about ½ to ¾ inch pieces, and keep separate from each other.
Heat a large, heavy pot and add 1 T. of the bacon grease. When it covers the bottom of the pot, add the Italian sausage. Remove the sausage when it is browned. Leave all of the fat and the browned bits, but stir them a bit to separate them from the pot. Use a wooden spoon.
Add the remaining bacon grease and the whole peppercorns, and cook for about a minute.
Add the onions, the bell pepper and the celery. Cook over a low to medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, and then add the chopped garlic. Add the thyme and the cayenne. Stir to scrape the bottom of the pot.
When the vegetables are almost soft, kick up the heat to medium and add the smoked sausage, the ham hock, and two of the smashed garlic cloves -– well smashed but not crushed with a garlic press. Cook for a few minutes to get a little brown on the smoked sausage, stirring constantly. Add the cooked Italian sausage and stir well.
Add the stock and stir to deglaze the pot. Add the beans, the bay leaves, and the two remaining smashed garlic cloves. Stir a bit.
Simmer with the pot partially covered, stirring from time to time, for about 2 hours, or until the beans are soft. You may need to add water –- possibly as much as 2-3 cups as you cook –- to obtain a creamy consistency, and to maintain it while you keep the pot on a low heat before serving. You never can tell how long it will take, but the beans will keep nicely once they reach the right stage.
Just before you are ready to serve, cook the remaining sausage –- grill, oven, or pan. Suit yourself.
Remove the ham hock from the red beans and set it aside to eat when no one is looking.
Serve the beans, topped with the spring onions, over rice with a smoked sausage on the side. Serve with the salad and crusty bread. Have Tabasco and Crystal available for each diner. Enjoy.
You will probably have some left over. You always should have some left over, whatever you serve, lest someone leave your house hungry. It keeps. You can even freeze the leftovers.