Here’s a recipe and pictorial to make a pot of red beans. I’ve cooked beans all my adult life, with the exception of red. Black, crowder peas, black eye peas, lima, pinto, all of them coming out delicious, but never the same for the reds. Maybe it was familial; my mom was a fabulous cook, with the exception of her red beans, which just plain sucked. Watching her make them, I vowed I would never use her method; they came out greasy, there was too much celery in the dish, and the beans weren’t always thoroughly cooked and were never creamy. And her technique of boiling rice, measuring the water and rice with the finger method never worked and it always came out gummy and starchy. Needless to say, dinner on Monday nights growing up was pretty depressing.
So the few times I attempted red beans in my youth were disasterous. I shelved cooking them, relying on the standby Blue Runners or Popeyes until a few years ago when I ate them at my aunts. Her version was delicious, creamy, and full of meat without being the greasy mess I remember my mom cooking. I begged my aunt for her recipe and after the third attempt, I finally nailed it – red beans any New Orleanian would be proud to serve.
Here are the ingredients:
1 pound kidney beans, Camellia preferred
2 pounds meat (sausage, ham, pickle meat, etc.)
1-2 chopped onions
3-4 minced jalapenos
1 chopped bell pepper
1/2 stick butter (optional)
salt, pepper, parsley, bay leaves, hot sauce, seasoning
First boil a pot of salted water
After the pot comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and add one pound dried red beans – Camellia beans are the best cause of their high moisture content.
Let the beans sit in the hot water for an hour, off the fire, then drain, rinse and add fresh water to the pot, then put it all back on a high fire.
Next, chop a couple onions, one bell pepper, and maybe a few jalapenos – add this to the beans and water, raw. I do not use celery-it makes the dish taste too much of celery and ruins the other flavors. But if you want to add some, only use 2 or 3 ribs. I also put some garlic in the pot, but that isn’t necessary either.
Also add parsley, a few bay leaves, salt, pepper, hot sauce and your favorite seasoning mix if you like…
…bring to a boil, then lower the flame and simmer uncovered.
About once an hour, check the beans…
…and add water to keep the beans moist so they’ll continue cooking
You will add the meat during the last hour of the cooking process. You can also opt to keep it a vegetarian dish. An old friend who used to work at Ye Olde College Inn told me years ago they used Hillshire Farms kielbasa in their red beans – this was pre-Katrina, pre-John Blancher, so I cannot vouch for how they are prepared now.
I like using kielbasa – whatever meat you decide to use, be it ham hocks, ham, pickled pork, or any combination of these, add about 2 pounds
I cut the kielbasa into rounds so they would retain their shape
then baked it separately to keep the grease out of the beans. If you use a ham bone, trim the fat and add it to the pot when you start cooking.
Once the meat has cooked down, add it to the beans during the last hour of cooking. Smash some beans along the side of the pot, this makes the beans creamy. You can also add a 1/2 stick of butter at the end, totally optional.
And when they are done (takes about 4 hours), serve it with rice – I like hot sauce, chili-garlic oil paste (this can be found at the Hong Kong Market in Terrytown) and creole mustard to garnish – then enjoy!