Red Beans and Rice. It’s one of the comfort foods from my childhood. And I especially loved it when it was served for lunch at my school. Yes, you read that correctly! The lunchroom ladies at my school were outstanding cooks. In fact, most of them were related to my classmates, and cooked for us the same way they did at home.
You see, I grew up in rural Louisiana, and the lunches at my school were pure comfort food. And we could go back for seconds. And we wanted to go back for seconds. Plus, we needed stick-to-our-ribs food. Most of us got on the school bus around 6:30AM, and didn’t arrive home from school until 4PM or later. And with two recesses, a real lunch break and PE class–where we played kickball, basketball, or dodgeball—we needed those calories to get us through those long days!
At our school, most everything we ate was made from scratch: beef tips & gravy, mashed potatoes, yeast rolls, slow cooked turnip greens and cabbage, black-eyed peas, stewed okra & tomatoes, fried (or baked) chicken, homemade desserts (cookies, cobblers and cakes), not to mention the enormous salad bar stocked with every vegetable imaginable. YUM! We ate well, both in taste and in variety.
And I vividly remember Mondays and/or Fridays, which were the days when the cafeteria would serve Red Beans & Rice. After all, we were in Louisiana. It’s a tradition. Now, some might say those beans were overcooked. Not me! To me, they were just right, soft and creamy; seasoned with just the right amount of kick! So tasty! Accompanying this meal was cornbread, slow-cooked cabbage and a berry cobbler.
Today, I was craving some comfort food just like that! Red Beans and Rice is the perfect meal to cook on my work days, when I need a dish that can be ignored while I teach piano and voice lessons for several hours in the afternoon and evening. During the holidays, I baked an enormous ham, which yielded quite a bit of leftovers, including a nice-sized ham bone. I knew it would make an amazing pot of beans.
[Please tell me you keep the bones! Don’t throw them away. They make a tasty pot of beans, split pea soup, etc. And if you have chicken bones or beef bones, save them to make broth. If you don’t have time to make the stock, just toss them into a ziptop bag and freeze.]
Anyways, back to the topic at hand: Red Beans & Rice. This is one of those recipes that does require a bit of preparation on the frontend, but after that, you just let it do its thang! Try it and enjoy!
Red Beans and Rice
- 1 lb red beans
- 2 Tablespoons, olive oil or bacon grease
- 1 onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 2-3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 lb of smoked sausage, sliced (Andouille is best, but any smoked sausage will do.)
- 1 ham bone, preferably with a bit of meat on it.
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
- 2 teaspoons parsley
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 10-12 cups of water or stock
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Steamed rice or quinoa
- Green onions, chopped for garnish
- Tabasco hot sauce, as needed by individuals
**Sort and soak beans overnight or use a quick-soak method. In a large stock pot heat oil/bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. To this, add smoked sausage and brown lightly. Add soaked/drained beans to pot. Pour in water or stock. Stir in tomato paste and seasonings, stirring to combine. Lastly, add ham bone. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer until beans are tender, approximately 2-3 hours. Adjust seasonings as needed. Serve over steamed rice or quinoa***. Garnish with chopped green onion, pepperoncinis and Tabasco sauce.
**This is where I diverge from tradition. I have an electric pressure cooker, which doesn’t require soaking the beans and cooks them in 30 minutes. After cooking, I add them to the pot with the other ingredients, simmering on low until ready to serve.
***Quinoa is not traditional, but we like it and the additional protein.