I am harkening back to the days of yore for this week's recipe. My soon to be sister-in-law asked (not once) for my recipe for Red Beans and Rice, a dish that I fell head over heels in love with during my longer than desired stint in Baton Rouge. I'm not saying anything against that wonderful town, it's fantastic people, or my fabulous former employer other than this: Aaron lives in Houston. One day I might reveal to you the particulars of why a couple so passionately in love ended up in different cities for a year and a half. Fortunately for you, that day is not today.
You can never be too careful with red beans and rice. Proper RB&R requires careful preparation, exact measurements, and a little of this and a little of that. It might be safe to say that my culinary skills are lacking two things: precision and prescription. I find it very difficult to follow a recipe. Though my RB&R never comes out the same way twice, it always tastes amazing and authentic. The first time I made it, I used Emeril's recipe. Now that I'm a seasoned professional, I just flow.
There are a few appliances that will make your life a whole lot easier: a food processor, a crock pot, and a rice cooker. I will say that I survived years without any of these new fangled contraptions, so I'm confident so can you.
Ingredients: 2 Green Bell Peppers, 1 med-sm onion, 5 celery stalks, 2-3 + tbsp minced garlic, 2 smoked ham hocks, EVOO, butter, black pepper, cayenne pepper, bay leaves (2-3), thyme, parsley, 6 cups chicken stock, and of course 1 lb red beans (soak overnight and sort).
(Note: Emeril also adds tasso or ham and sausage, but Aaron and I prefer to have sausage on the side and for those of you who are health conscious, it provides a leaner RB&R.)
Finely chop bell pepper, onion, and celery. Add butter and olive oil to a pan and heat to med/high. Add the Holy Trinity (Cajun vernacular), season with black and cayenne peppers and garlic salt and cook for a few minutes (3-4). Add the garlic, bay leaves, parsley (2 tbsp), thyme (2 tbsp), ham hocks brown the hocks and cook (3-4) minutes. Add the beans and chicken stock.
Now you are done the hard part. If you have a slow cooker, by all means transfer your concoction and cook on medium or low for 8-ish hours. I kid you not, at this point we run an extension cord under the balcony door and move the slow cooker outside. Considered the veggies involved, it's no wonder its aromatic. (Not a joke: once I forgot to close my closet door on the other side of my apartment and my clothes for the next week allowed me to revisit my culinary masterpiece each morning.) Once the cooking process is complete, take out ham hocks and remove the meat that should be falling off the bone. Mash the mixture with a potato masher or blend or use a wooden spoon and mash against the side of the pan. Return the ham hock meat to the mixture.
The beautiful thing about this meal is that the work lasts about 45 minutes (significantly reduced if you have a food processor). And, once you get to the point of making rice you can just set your apron aside because the hard part is over!
This recipe feeds Aaron and I for about 6 meals. We usually stick some fabulous sausage (we really like Nolan Ryan brand beef sausage) under the broiler and serve it on the side. I might also mention that it freezes really well. I would recommend storing left over rice separate of the red beans.
Good Luck! May the spirit of the Atchafalaya be with you.
P.S. My fiance criticized my pictures. Said that I should have put spices in the ingredient picture. That may be true. But, there is one thing that I should explain. Red Beans might not be the prettiest meal of all time. It might look like baby food (or something else). So, there.