Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Louisiana style red beans and rice

Living (currently) as a southern boy transplanted to the midwest, one thing that I see constantly done wrong here is red beans and rice. Most people around here have no clue what real, Louisiana style red beans and rice is like. When I first moved to Saint Louis almost five years ago I was really stoked about all the vegetarian and vegan options there are for eating out. (Many of the local veggies here bitch, which I marvel at; Saint Louis is likely the most underrated vegan friendly city in the country -- and I've been to the supposed vegan meccas of Portland and San Francisco.) So imagine my horror when I order "red beans and rice"as a vegan selection on a local bar's menu and get basically whole kidney beans with a thin soupy broth served over rice.

First of all red beans and rice are NOT made with kidney beans. Understand that. True red beans and rice use the small red beans. Furthermore, the finished product is not simply whole beans in a broth, but creamy and thick, and not soupy at all.

  • One pound (regular 16 oz. package) of small red beans
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head of garlic (yes, a whole head), minced
  • 4 decent sized sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
  • 5 bayleaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • One regular (32 oz.) carton of vegetable broth
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
The first thing you do is soak your beans overnight in plenty of water. The alternative to this is the quick soak method. The quick soak method is basically boiling the ever living shit out of dry beans for a few minutes, then taking them off the heat and letting them sit for an hour. It works, but I recommend an overnight soak, as the beans end up a better, more evenly cooked finished product.

After your beans are soaked the next step is to cook them. Throw out the soaking water and replace it with until the beans are well covered with water. Boil them for an hour with your bayleaves. After they are done drain them set them to the side.

Saute your onions, bell pepper, and celery on high heat until the onions start to caramelize. Turn your heat down to medium and add the garlic and the red pepper flakes. (If you think you are bad ass you can add a whole tablespoon, but any more than that and I think the heat starts to take away from the flavor of the red beans.) Stir this for a few minutes making sure it doesn't burn, then add half of your veggie broth.

Bring everything up to a vigorous boil and add half of your rosemary. Let it boil for a three or so minutes, then add your drained, cooked red beans (with the bayleaves) and the rest of your veggie broth. Bring it up to a boil then turn the heat down a little to medium-high. You want a good simmer going on here -- you don't want a full boil but you also don't want a light simmer either. These need to cook about an hour and a half. You need to be sure to stir regularly to make sure the beans don't stick to the bottom and burn. You will also need to add some water a couple of times (a cup or so at a time) as it cooks down. About 45 minutes or so into this process add the rest of the rosemary. Also, take a little taste and add salt accordingly.

Another thing that I like to do toward the end, but is optional, is to take a potato masher and mash the beans up a bit. This gets them a little creamier, which I like.

Serve over rice. Choose your own beans to rice ratio. You can add some hot sauce if you want. Also, this is one of those dishes that's better the next day, so don't eat it all up immediately.

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