I’m an unbored housewife and I don’t have all day to craft gorgeous meals. I’m typically cooking with a toddler clinging to my calves while my two preschoolers systematically destroy my house room by room. I need a repertoire of meals that are easily prepared and consistently well received by my brood. Enter red beans and rice. Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I grew up eating them.
Much like your favorite pair of underwear, red beans and rice may not be the most glamorous thing to look at, but man are they comfortable. You just keeping going back to them over and over again.
Did I just compare my family’s favorite meal to a pair of old underwear? Why yes. Yes I did. It makes perfect sense in my head.
For some inexplicable reason, folks are intimidated by cooking with dried beans. Let me assuage this fear, dear ones. There is almost nothing easier to use in cooking. However, dried beans take a bit of planning ahead. They are definitely not for the 5:45 p.m. “oh crap what the hey am I going to feed these people” moment.
Oh, and it’s a cheap meal. I’ve never calculated the total cost but smoked sausage is the most expensive ingredient at $3.99 from my local Wegmans.
Here are the main ingredients. I told you it was simple.
I prefer Goya beans but any decent quality dried red bean will do. You can also buy organic, of course.
Empty your beans into a large pot and quickly look through them, tossing out any grody-looking beans. Cover your beans with a few inches of cool water. Now you have a choice depending on your time frame. Either:
(1) soak your beans at room temperature for at least eight hours or overnight; or
(2) bring your beans to a rapid boil and boil briskly for two to three minutes, turn off the heat, cover your beans and let them sit for at least an hour.
This is called soaking the beans and it both reduces cooking time and breaks down some of the indigestible sugars that make you fart. Yes, I just said fart. We’re talking about beans, okay?
After your beans are done soaking, drain the water out of your pot and re-cover the beans with a few inches of fresh water.
Dice one large onion (or two medium onions) and throw it in your pot.
Cut your smoked sausage into bite-sized pieces and throw that in, too.
Add one tablespoon of minced garlic. Fresh is best but for convenience you can use this, too.
Throw in a bay leaf.
Now salt and pepper. As with all seasoning, your measurements are really a matter of taste but I typically add approximately one teaspoon of salt and one-quarter teaspoon of black pepper at this point. Then I adjust after the beans are done by adding a little more salt to taste. It’s always best to go light on the salt and add more later.
Now crank up your heat to a rapid boil and allow your ingredients to boil for two to three minutes. Stir your beans (making sure none are stuck to the bottom of the pot) and turn down your burner to medium low. Your beans should be at a simmer. Place the lid ajar on your pot, permitting just a little steam to escape as your beans cook.
Periodically stir your beans and make sure they remain covered by water. Add more warm water if necessary. Cooking time will vary depending on how you soaked your beans, but generally red beans will be done in one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours. You will know they are done when the beans are soft and slighty mushy. Mash some of the beans to thicken up the texture. The beans should be a soupy but not watery consistency. You can cook them even longer (until they start to break down) if you prefer a thicker, creamier consistency.
Remove the bay leaf.
Serve over cooked white rice. Sprinkle a little Tabasco on top if you’re feeling spicy. (I prefer the green variety.) Yum yum. They’re comfy, I tell you, just like your favorite undies.
Go make some in honor Madi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!
16 oz. dried red kidney beans
1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
14 oz. smoked sausage
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 bay leaf
salt and black pepper