Legumes are my comfort food. No idea why, but there are times when I just really need a bean thing to make me feel better. (OK, when chocolate isn’t called for and Kraft Mac-n-Cheese is off the list for Reasons.) Black-beans a la the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, Christianos-y-Morros, New Mexican pinto-beans, Hoppin’ John, white bean soup (aka ham-n-bean), and red-beans-and-rice. Red beans and rice is a wash-day standard in Louisiana and other areas where you need something that can take care of itself while you do the laundry ye Olde Fashioned Way or anything else that needs hours and leaves you tired at the end of it.
As usual, this is “one of these, some of that, cook until done” since I tend to cook by feel and taste. You can find rice instructions all over the place, so I omitted those.
You need, more or less:
a pound of red kidney beans OR two 15 oz. cans of kidney beans
olive oil or your preferred cooking oil
Chopped onion, celery, and garlic (aka the Holy Trinity). A chopped green bell pepper (optional) I generally lean toward a whole small onion, three or four sticks of celery (unless it is the good kind with tops on it, when you only need three sticks) and garlic to taste (1-2T)
Good leftover sausage or ham, a half pound or so, more or less, depending on if this is a side or the main dish. If it is the main dish, add a full pound meat.
This is the basic, core recipe. Now for the variations: Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, sage, Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, basil, balsamic vinegar, or whatsoever your taste buds decide is needed. Not all at the same time, please, and if you use spicy sausage, I’d go easy on the other things until I get a taste of the beans and see how things are going. I’d start easy with a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce OR hot sauce (not salsa), Cajun seasoning, or sage and basil and so on. I’ve never made this with tomato paste in the beans, but I’ve seen recipes with it included.
Either soak your beans overnight or hot-soak them (put in a pot with water to cover, bring to a boil, boil for 3-5 minutes, turn off heat and let soak an hour or so until softened, drain off the water.) If you use canned beans, rinse them very well to get rid of as much salt as possible, and use two cans. Cut the cooking time down to an hour.
In a large pot, heat your oil* until it shimmers. Add chopped vegetables and saute until the onions are translucent (about 4 minutes or so). Add meat and cook a little. Add the beans and stir until the veggies are well mixed. Add enough water to cover. Add seasonings to taste and stir. Bring back to a boil, turn heat down and cook for two hours or until the beans are soft and the flavors well blended. Don’t hesitate to sample after an hour and adjust the spices as needed. Don’t let the beans go dry.
Half an hour** before serving, start your rice. I use long-grain white, but any kind is fine. I also chop a tomato to serve on the side, but I’m eccentric.
Put the rice on the individual plates. Heap the beans in the middle of the rice. Serve with additional hot sauce (Tabasco is traditional). You’ll probably have beans left over. They taste just as good, if not better, the next day.
*Some people skip the oil and saute the sausage first, using the fat from the meat to then cook the veggies. Most of the sausage I’ve found isn’t fatty enough for that.
** If you prefer brown rice, allow 45 minutes or more, depending on elevation.