It’s no surprise that red beans and rice is one of the dishes most strongly associated with the enchanting city of New Orleans, also called “The Big Easy.” It’s delicious, nutritious, easy to prepare and happily inexpensive.
While New Orleans is known for its tantalizing cuisine, it’s also known for Mardi Gras, a celebration of food, music and pleasure. This year Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 21, and this traditional NOLA dish is a perfect way to celebrate.
Red beans and rice are customarily made on Mondays in the South. The time-honored recipe uses the leftover ham bone from Sunday’s dinner simmered all day with beans and served over rice. So, turns out we’re cooking like it’s Monday while celebrating Fat Tuesday. But I digress. Let’s cook food!
To make this shortcut recipe weeknight easy, we’re using canned beans. You could certainly use dried beans prepared according to package directions.
The beans used in this recipe are small red beans. If you can’t find them, substitute red kidney beans. Traditionally, this recipe calls for andouille (an-DOO-ee) sausage, which has a nice spicy kick. If you can’t find andouille or prefer a milder sausage, substitute kielbasa or other smoked sausage.
BIG EASY RED BEANS AND RICE
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total Time: 90 minutes
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 link (13.5 ounce) smoked sausage, andouille or kielbasa, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large onion (1 1/2 cups), chopped
2 ribs celery (1 cup), chopped
1 green bell pepper (about 1 cup), chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 (15.5 ounce) cans red beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups cooked rice
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the smoked sausage to render all that flavorful fat. Remove the sausage and set aside. In the same skillet, saute the onion, celery, green bell pepper and garlic until tender. Add the chicken broth, seasoning, thyme, pepper and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer. Add beans and return sausage, then simmer for at least 45 minutes; but the longer it cooks, the better it gets! Doesn’t the house smell delicious? This is how you want the house to smell when you invite company over for dinner. Stir it occasionally and add water, if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt if desired. Serve the beans with the rice and Dixieland jazz music.
Since rice is such an important element of this dish, go to the extra effort of making really flavorful rice.
Yield: 6 cups
Total Time: 30 minutes
4 cups of chicken broth or bouillon
2 cups long grain white or basmati rice
1 tablespoon of butter
Bring broth to a boil then add rice and butter. If you used low sodium broth, add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes for perfect rice every time.
Save money by making your own creole seasoning with this recipe.
Yield: 1/3 cup
Total Time: 5 minutes
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon black pepper
½ tablespoon onion powder
½ tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Blend all ingredients. Use within two months.
I’ll close with the words that New Orleans native, trumpeter and vocalist Louis Armstrong used to sign his letters: “Red Beans & Ricely Yours.”
Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at firstname.lastname@example.org
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