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What is your biggest cooking fail?
For me, red beans and rice holds that title. (The chocolate mousse that came out looking like poop is a close second).
Marrying a Southern-born man and living in the South for a number of years meant learning to cook things that I didn’t grow up on. Things like gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans & rice. Moving back home to Minnesota, I was eager to share my new found food loves with my family and friends. One problem, while I’d eaten red beans & rice lots of times, I’d never made it before. So maybe making it for a party wasn’t the best idea on my first try.
I forgot to do one majorly important thing when cooking my beans…add something to give them some flavor. They came out tasting remotely like paste.
So learn from me…don’t leave out the ham bone. It’s kind of the secret.
Red Beans and Rice
This is an easy recipe, but does take some pre-planning. The beans need to soak overnight. Just put them in your pot and cover them with a few inches of water.
I like to use two kinds of red beans, but if you can only find one, it’s no problem. You’ll need 2 pounds total. I use one pound of small red beans and one pound of kidney beans. I suppose you could halve the recipe and just use one pound of beans, but why would you when leftovers freeze so beautifully?
My thought is that if I’m sapping every bit of flavor out of a ham bone, I might as well get a few meals out of it. After all, I don’t always have ham bones around, so I make the most of them when I do. (You could also substitute a purchased ham hock from the grocery in a pinch.)
But if you don’t have freezer space, or just don’t want to make so much…it’d be super easy to just make half.
And speaking of ham bones, here’s my tip: when you make ham, wrap the bone in foil and stick it in a Ziploc bag and pop in the freezer to have on hand for making this recipe. (In case you haven’t tried it, you must try this recipe for the most succulent, sweet ham ever!)
I got my red beans and rice recipe from the same sweet lady who taught me how to make sweet tea, and it’s really more of a method than a recipe.
After you soak your beans overnight (or at least 8 hours), drain them. Then put them back in your pot and cover with fresh water by at least an inch. Add your ham bone and a chopped onion.
Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and let it simmer. You want to keep it mostly covered, but leave your lid just a bit askew so that steam can escape. Let it simmer for about 3 hours. Stir it occasionally, and if all of your liquid evaporates, add more.
When it’s done, the beans will be soft and it will be loose, but shouldn’t be too liquidy. Remove the ham bone (Thank you for your service, ham bone, you are the MVP, now you can go to your rest).
Using an immersion blender makes this next part a lot easier, but it’s not necessary. You want to puree/mash some of the beans, to give the dish a smoother consistency. A few spins with the immersion blender makes quick work of this. Alternately, you could scoop a few cups of beans and puree them in your blender (make sure to leave the top vented or you’ll have a big mess). Or you can pull out your handy potato masher and use that.
Remember, you’re not pureeing the whole pot, you’re just helping to thicken it.
The original recipe called for leaving the pot on your stovetop for several hours to continue to thicken up, then mashing or pureeing some to get it to the right consistency. I prefer to monitor the amount of liquid in the pot as they cook, then mash enough to get me where we want to be. You can always add a bit of water, too, if the beans are too thick after the mashing/pureeing.
Did you notice that I didn’t add any salt or other seasonings while the beans were cooking? Now’s the time. Stir in salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
At this point you have two options. Either stash it in the fridge and then re-heat when you’re ready to serve (this is a great option, as the flavor only gets better) or add your sausage and serve now.
When you’re ready to serve, stir in your sliced, smoked sausage and heat through. Use whatever kind is your favorite. Andouille would be great here. I like the roasted garlic smoked sausage that Costco carries. Add as much as you prefer. For a big pot like this, I usually add about 2 pounds.
Serve over rice (have you ever tried baking your rice in the oven? It’s the only way I make it now).
Like I said, this recipe freezes beautifully. Don’t freeze it with the rice, BTW. Mushy rice is not yummy. When you need a quick dinner, just pull it out, thaw, heat and cook up some rice.
I like to serve this with bread/rolls and green beans.
You need to give this warm and hearty dish a try (just don’t leave out the ham bone…I beg you!)
Here’s the recipe: