The classic New Orleans dish. There are SO many different ways to make it: this recipe is more of a guideline than anything else. I cobbled it together from about 3 different sources and after a bunch of trial and error, this is my current favorite iteration. WARNINGS! 1) Done properly, this is a two-day process, and; 2) This recipe makes a LOT – you will need a really big pot, 12 quarts minimum. It freezes really well, though.
- 2 pounds of dry red kidney beans
- 6 ribs of celery, coarsely chopped
- 7-9 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 large white onions, coarsely chopped
- 3 large green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
- 2 large smoked ham hocks (or substitute 3/4 pound of diced smoked ham if you simply can’t find ham hock – a shame)
- 3 pounds of good spicy smoked sausage – andouille if you can find it – sliced on the bias
- 1.5 tsp dried thyme leaves, crushed
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Several dashes of Crystal or Tabasco hot sauce
- Several dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 3-4 tsp creole seasoning blend
- 1-2 tsp salt
The night before, put the beans into a pot, and cover them with lots of cold water – you will need at least 4 inches of water on top of the beans, if not more. Soak them overnight. Soaking the beans overnight reduces the cooking time, and also reduces some of the… err… deleterious effects of bean consumption, if you know what I mean.
In the morning, drain the water from the beans, and put fresh water in the pot. Bring the beans to a rolling boil, and cook for 45-60 minutes until they are tender but not falling apart. Make sure to keep the beans completely covered in water while you are cooking them, or they will get hard and nasty-tasting.
While the beans are cooking, sauté the onions, celery, and bell pepper until the onion just starts to turn translucent. Add in the garlic and cook a couple more minutes (don’t cook it too long – if the garlic browns, it will turn bitter).
Drain the cooked beans, and dump everything into your big cooking pot in this order: Ham hocks, celery/onion/bell pepper/garlic, half of the sausage (reserve the other half for later), beans, and all of the seasonings except for the salt. Now shake the pot a bit to settle everything: you want it as compact as possible for when you add the water (adding too much water is where you can really screw up the dish.)
Fill up the pot with cold water until you can just see the waterline about to cover the top of the beans. Don’t make the mistake of over-filling the pot with water, or it will turn out more like soup – you want the end result to be thick like stew. You can always add a little more water later.
Crank up the heat until the mixture comes to a full boil, then turn it down to a simmer for about 2.5-3.0 hours. Stir it occasionally, so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.
At about the 2 hour mark, fish out the ham hocks. Pull off all of the meat and dump it back in the pot, and throw the fat and bones away. Continue simmering.
When the beans really start to break down and thicken up, dump in the reserved sausage, and salt to taste. Simmer for about another 20 minutes and then turn off the heat (you should be at around the 3 hour mark now, but you can go longer if you need to). You can eat it now, but it always tastes better if you let it sit overnight in the fridge to let the flavors further combine.
Serve over hot rice, and eat with some good French bread and a frosty beverage!
- For those of you in the Seattle area, the sausage I use is half Hempler’s Andouille, half Double-D Meats double-smoked bratwurst. If you can’t find these in your area, any sausage that is smoked and has pork in it (and maybe some garlic) would work fine.
- If your beans do not seem to be thickening up by the 3 hour mark, you may have gotten old beans from the store. Try pulling out a few scoops of the beans from the pot, mashing them up in a bowl, and then dumping them back in.
- I know that I just got through telling you to make sure not to add too much water, but… This recipe also make a really hearty soup if you add a teeny bit more water, and drop in a handful of chopped green onions right before serving. So if you added too much water, make lemons out of lemonade and serve “Red Bean Soup” for dinner!