Every year about this time when the air starts getting a bit crisp, my mind turns to comfort foods – the types of things that fill the house with good smells while they’re cooking, taste delicious, and leave you feeling full and warm as a protection against the cold. One of the best examples I can think of is the old Southern classic red beans and rice. Now there are easier ways to make this dish than the recipe I’m giving today, but taking a little extra time with this one (and using quality ingredients) can turn this dish from good to great. You’ll want to start this one the night before you’re going to cook so that you can give your beans time to soak – canned beans just don’t work as well.
Red Beans and Rice
- 1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and soaked for at least eight hours
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large bell pepper, chopped
- 1 Anaheim chile pepper, chopped
- salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 pound andouille sausage. It pays to get the best quality sausage you can find. I was lucky this time to have a couple of links of some really good homemade smoked andouille (see right) – it really makes a difference.
- 1 pound smoked ham hocks
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 8 cups chicken stock (if using canned, get a low salt variety)
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups cooked white rice
In a large pot, season your onions and peppers with about 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper and saute until soft (bacon fat or schmaltz work wonderfully here for your saute fat, but vegetable oil is fine). Add in your ham hocks, sausage, bay leaves, thyme, garlic and cayenne (to taste) and stir frequently until the hocks and sausage are browned. Add the chicken stock, water, and beans to the pot stir well, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about two hours, stirring occasionally. After two hours, remove the ham hocks, then pick the meat from them and add it back to the pot. Mash about 1/4 of the beans with the back of a spoon, then cook for twenty minutes more, or until the beans are tender and creamy. Serve over white rice with some Crystal hot sauce on the side. Enjoy!