Sunday, March 6, 2011

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

You may not be aware of this, but we're on the brink of an important holiday: Mardi Gras! That's right, Fat Tuesday is tomorrow. And that's a wonderful excuse to eat and drink a whole lot before Lent sets in and we're deprived of something good for 40 days. I'm not very good at Lent, but that's probably worth its own blog post. So I think for this one, I'll focus on what I am good at: Eating and celebrating. I think those two qualities are quite Southern, so thankfully are in my DNA.

I wanted to share with you a recipe to help you get in the proper holiday spirit. Even if you're surprised by this occasion, you can still whip up this meal and have plenty of time to sip a Sazerac.

Red beans and rice is pretty quintessential NOLA (short for New Orleans, LA) cuisine. It was originally served on Mondays, utilizing the ham bone left over from Sunday supper. Very low maintenance, it simmered on the stove all day while the women washed the family's laundry and hung it out to dry. Although for the most part, Monday Wash Day is a thing of the past, red beans and rice is still a NOLA staple, both at home and restaurants. Today, though, you'll most often find it served with andouille sausage or boudin, a spicy pork sausage with onion, rice and herbs.

This dish is easy to put together, inexpensive and comforting. The only issue I could possibly point to is the name. It seems like it should be called red beans and sausage because the rice seems like an after thought. Regardless, it's delicious.

While I certainly don't care if your laundry goes by untouched for another day, I must implore you to make red beans and rice in honor of Mardi Gras. Just stick the few ingredients in a crock pot and you're done!

If you're still unconvinced but would like to celebrate, try these other suggestions:
1) Drink cheap beer out of a large plastic cup — at 9 am, or . . .
2) Lift your shirt up and see if anyone throws beads at you.
If you start with the first one, you may likely end up doing the second. Just don't say I didn't warn you. . . .

Laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll)!

Mama's Red Beans and Rice

1 lb dried red kidney beans, washed and picked over for stones
1 ham bone or 2 lbs boudin, smoke sausage or Cajun andouille, sliced 1 inch thick
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
6 cups water
Hot sauce for seasoning
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Rice, for accompaniment

Place beans in a large bowl and add water to cover. Soak overnight. Or place the beans in a large pot of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the beans have come to a boil, remove from the heat and set aside for an hour. Before cooking, discard any floating beans and drain.
To prepare in a slow cooker, place the drained beans, ham bone (or sausage), onion, garlic and water in the insert of a slow cooker. Cover over low heat until the beans are tender, about 6 hours.
To prepare on the stovetop, combine the beans, ham bone (or sausage), onion, garlic, and water in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch over. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Simmer, covered, until the beans are tender, 4-5 hours. Season with hot sauce. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with rice.

1 comment:

  1. Phil just told me we're going to NOLA next year when he has a conference. I cannot wait to EAT! It will be my first time there.