Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Red Beans & Rice

Generally speaking when asking a chef what their favorite meal to prepare is you're going to be told a dish comprised of exotic ingredients, and preparation methods that leave most scratching their head. After some serious thought on the subject I have concluded that my favorite dish to prepare is red beans and rice. That's not to say I don't enjoy cooking with some of the more exotic ingredients out there, but there's no other dish that puts a smile on my face in the kitchen like this one......


1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and sorted
1/4 cup smoked bacon, chopped
1/2 pound andouille sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound beef smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ham hock
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onions
3/4 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced green bell peppers
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
10 cups chicken stock, or water
1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce
4 cups cooked white rice
1/4 cup chopped green onions, optional


Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with 3 inches of water. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse and set aside.

1. In a large pot, heat the bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until it just starts to crisp. Do not remove grease when done. Add ham hock and brown.

2. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the bacon pieces in the pot. Season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes.

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

4. 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.)

5. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and starting to break down. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.

6. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions, or chopped parsley

How to make a Roux..

Peanut Butter Roux
Blonde Roux
All roux starts with two basic ingredients, one being flour, and the other, a fat of some type, generally it's butter, but many will use some type of oil. I cook my roux over low heat in a cast-iron skillet until it reaches the desired degree of doneness. When it comes to Cajun food you'll need a roux known throughout the Gulf Coast region as a "peanut butter" roux. This roux is cooked until it looks the same color as peanut butter, or in the case of a "Dark Gumbo" the color of a melted chocolate bar. When I'm cooking Cajun food my roux will always start with bacon grease as the fat. I know many out there will frown upon the health implications of cooking with bacon grease, but I'm a firm believer that bacon grease as a part of my diet will do less harm than the stress of rush-hour traffic. You'll need to stir the roux continuously while cooking to prevent burning. My Rule number one in cooking-when it's black, it's done! There is no saving it, please don't serve it, just throw it away, and start over! The consistency of your roux should be that of wet sand as the tide just starts to roll away. Blonde roux, a roux that has been cooked until just starting to turn golden in color, is used for cream sauces, and a darker roux for deeper sauces. It takes some practice, but a properly cooked roux with liquid slowly added will not result in a lumpy sauce.