Friday, February 1, 2008

Mardi Gras! Let's Party

In honor of Mardi Gras next week, I thought I would share a red beans and rice recipe. When we lived in Louisiana, I got to hang out with some great ladies that were excellent (southern) cooks. They kept telling me that their really is no recipe- you just do it. Well after many phone call and conversations I finally got the whole process down. Then when people asked me for the recipe, I would say there really isn't one! But I finally got it written down for a friend and decided others might like it too. This requires a little bit of planning and work the day before, hence why this post is so early. ;)

First a little history (what fun would it be w/o a history lesson?). I was told that Red beans and rice was usually made on Mondays, as that was laundry day. The pot could be on cooking all day and required little work, unlike the labor and time intensive washin'. The ingredients were easily found and fairly inexpenisive. Celery, onions, and green peppers are 'the holy trinity' of Louisiana cooking, but not everyone likes them. Which is okay, you can leave something out if you don't like onions or the price ($4 each!?!?!) of peppers.

Mardi Gras is celebrated all over in Louisiana (as well as a few other states), not just N'awlins (that is New Orleans, to those of you who may not know). People very often have the day off from work and school and celebrate. Families and friends will enjoy crawfish or crawdads (crayfish), creole, red beans, and jambalaya, just to name a few. The king cake is the finisher of the great meal, decorated in purple, green, and gold (or yellow), and a small item (a plastic baby, but we used a toy soldier army man) is placed in the cake. Whomever gets the item is king for the night and gets the king beads (usually just bigger and flashier) and privileges (can't remember what now!). Okay history part done.

1 bag of dried red beans (usually about 12-16 oz)
1 onion
1 green pepper
several stalks of celery
Creole seasoning, We use McCormicks but there are several brands available
1 package of Sausage: If you like it and it is available, andouille sausage OR kielbasa sausage (this is what we normally use, even when in LA)
Hot sauce, like Tabasco
Rice, white or of your liking
Biscuits (I cheat and use refrigerator ones)

yes this is in bold so a body doesn't think this is a meal you throw together 30 min before you want to eat :)
Sort, rinse and soak the beans- if you MUST, you can use the quick soak method, but I am tellin you it AIN'T as good!!

The day you want eat:
In the morning, rinse your beans again and layer in your pot (on stove or crock pot) beans, some water, creole seasoning, hot sauce, keep layering until all the beans are in the pot. I don't really know why it is done this way verses dumping the beans and then adding the seasonings, but it seems to work better (maybe, perhaps, because there are too many beans to stir properly) Have on about medium heat (don't want the pot to boil over but need the beans to cook)

Dice your vegetables

About lunch time, depending on how soft you like your veggies, add your diced veggies as well as a little water if needed and some more spices. Be sure to check and stir your pot.

Sometime in the afternoon: the beans should start breaking down and thickening at this point, DO NOT add water, you want a nice thick chili-like mixture by dinnertime. Taste to see if you need more spices.

About a half an hour before you want eat: Chop up sausage add to mixture, heat thoroughly. Make rice. I know making rice should be a given, but I always forget!!

Dinnertime: throw on your beads, grab your mask, play some cajun or country music and enjoy a big bowl of red beans served over rice! Yum, Yum!

-There are no measurements for spices because it is really to taste. Little i looooves red beans and rice so we go a little easy on the hot sauce and add ours at meal time.
-Yes it really need to cook all day. Or you can eat rock hard beans w/no flavor. If you are home all day, like on the weekend, you could throw everything in the pot and go outside and play or read a book, build the 25th lego tower of the day, whatever you do at home, and then reheat on the stove for about an hour the day you want to serve it. (I won't tell, I have even done this a time or two!)
-Sometimes I have a hard time using the crockpot to cook the beans.
-This make loads of food, and freezes well.
-If I have friends over, I will make jumbalaya too, but I just use the recipe out of the Betty Crocker cookbook, So I won't add that recipe!

Hope y'all try something new and laissez les bon temps rouler! (let the good times roll!)

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