Monday in New Orleans means there’s red beans and rice on the menu of most local restaurants and simmering in numerous kitchens across the city. According to tradition, red beans were a food staple brought to the area by settlers fleeing modern-day Haiti. The Caribbean- and Creole-influenced recipes took advantage of ham hocks and meat left over from a traditional Sunday meal. With Monday being traditional wash day, a big pot of red beans simmering with the left over ham hocks is both a marriage of convenience and a marriage made in heaven.
Yesterday was Louis Armstrong’s birthday. As is the case with many native New Orleanians, he clearly loved red beans and rice,. Louis often signed letters with “Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours,” and while courting his fourth wife, he asked her to make his favorite dish. She must have passed the test, because they were happily married until his death in 1971, at the age of 69.
There are no words to express my love of Louis Armstrong and his music, and I don’t think there is any song better than Satchmo’s recording of What a Wonderful World.
A friend agreed to let me share her recipe. If you’d like to make red beans and rice, here is a step-by-step recipe, and the heavenly Louis Armstrong to inspire you.
RED BEANS AND RICE:
- 1 lb. dried red beans, sorted and soaked overnight
- Water, as needed
- 1 lb. beef smoked sausage, cut diagonally in 3/4 inch slices
- 1 tsp of cooking oil, more as needed to cook sausage and vegetables
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 green pepper, finely chopped
- 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. or less (depending upon desired heat level) ground cayenne pepper
- Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere
- White pepper
- cooked white or brown rice, approximately 3/4 cup cooked rice per serving
Soaking red beans overnight: Sort 1 lb. dried red beans and soak in a large stockpot covered with 3 inches of water water. Let sit overnight, draining and rinsing before cooking. Place soaked and rinsed red beans in a very large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover with water to 1-part bean and 2-part water ratio. Cover and bring to a rolling boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer, remaining covered and stirring often to prevent beans from scorching at the bottom of the pot.
While bean are simmering, brown the sausage with 1 tsp. cooking oil (more as needed) in a frying pan in batches, setting aside on a plate. Add more oil as needed to saute the onion, green pepper, celery, and parsley until tender. Add the sausage, sauteed vegetable mixture, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, and cayenne pepper to beans. Continue to simmer, stirring often and adding water as needed, for 2-3 hours, until beans are soft and creamy. Note: If beans scorch, remove from heat and transfer to another pot, leaving the scorched beans on the bottom of the original pot.
For creamier beans, mash the beans against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon, or scoop a bunch of beans onto a plate, mash with a spoon, and then return to the pot. Add Creole seasonings, salt, and pepper to taste.
To serve, place cooked rice in the center of a bowl and ladle beans around the rice.