My mother-in-law tells a story about how she sat in a small New Orleans restaurant enjoying her perfect red beans and rice when she heard the woman behind her say, “these beans are so delicious, what’s your secret”. Another woman replied, “baby, I just wait until they’re cooked and I add a whole stick of butter, that’s the trick”. My lactose intolerant mother-in-law’s eyes widened in horror before she laughed it off. Oh, New Orleans.
Alex and I lived in New Orleans for seven years before moving to Manhattan. In a city steeped in tradition, no one seems to make red beans and rice the same way and everyone is more than ready to tell you the perfect way to make it. I’ve had people tell me that a ham hock placed in the pot is a must for traditional beans. Some told me that you should add the spices when the beans “pop open” so that they absorb the seasonings better.
Whatever their tradition, every New Orleanian can agree that red beans and rice are a dish for Mondays. It used to be that this day was reserved for laundry and you’d spend it outside scrubbing clothes. People would set up their red beans on the stove and let them cook all day long while they toiled away outside. To this day, red beans and rice is still a special listed at restaurants for Mondays.
My red beans vary based on what I have on hand. Usually I make them vegan. Sometimes I’ll add smoked andouille sausage. I used to use a ham hock until I decided that I didn’t like the fattiness of them. I tend to make my red beans very trinity (celery, onion, bell pepper- the three things used in the base of most New Orleans cooking) heavy as I like my veggies. I always serve them over rice and with a heavy handed pour of hot sauce (I use Louisiana brand because it’s my favorite). This is one of Alex’s (and New Orleans’) favorite dishes. So give it a try, you don’t even have to wait until you’re doing your laundry.
red beans and rice
1 pound dried red kidney beans
2 cups celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound andouille sausage, chopped into 1-inch pieces (optional)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
Place the red beans in your slow cooker or a bowl and cover them with water so that there’s at least 3 inches of water over the top of the beans. Let them soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans and place them back in the slow cooker. Add 4-6 cups of fresh water, enough to cover the beans with about an inch of water over the top of them. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Set slow cooker to high and cook for 4-5 hours until the beans are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice with a generous splash of your favorite hot sauce.