Few dishes are as strongly associated with one city as Red Beans and Rice is with New Orleans. Louis Armstrong reportedly signed all of his letters “Red Beans and Rice-ly yours” in a nod to his hometown, where red beans and rice is a traditional Monday dish. And it’s no wonder that Red Beans and Rice are a signature dish of the Big Easy — they are easy to prepare, easy to afford, and easy to eat. Just a few ingredients — beans, some vegetables, a few spices — are transformed. It may not LOOK like much, but it tastes just dandy.
The simplicity, of course, made it perfect for my week of low budget meals. Dried beans are inexpensive, the vegetables are staples, and I have a well stocked spice cabinet. This is also a dish that is regularly in rotation in my household, because it cooks best in the crockpot. And if you are a working mother (or working anything, frankly), the crockpot should be your friend.
My recipe comes from my friend Betsy, who is a real, honest to goodness, native of New Orleans. OK, the New Orleans vicinity. But she’s the real thing. She’s also sweet, funny, and a great cook, though she’d probably be the first to deny it. I made a couple of changes in this week’s rendition, but I’ll make notes on the original.
- 1 pound dried red beans that have been soaked in water overnight. (I used small red beans because I like the texture, but the more authentic recipe uses red kidney beans)
- ¼ cup dried parsley
- ¼ cup olive oil (original just calls for oil — I almost always use olive)
- 1 tsp garlic
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning (I get mine from Penzeys but you can use Emeril brand too.)
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 chopped bell pepper
- 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
- Sausage (I used a chicken breakfast sausage here because it was economical and I’ve been feeding them to my kid, who loves them. I’ve also used smoked sausage, like cajun andouille or even kielbasa, in the past. If I use a smoked sausage, I usually slice it up and add it to the crockpot at the beginning of the day)
- After soaking the beans in water overnight, drain and rinse them. Put the beans in the crockpot with the vegetables, the seasonings (these can totally be adjusted to taste. In fact, I rarely measure. I just dump some in), and the oil. Add two cups of water, or for more flavor (though less frugality) beer or broth. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours. Before serving, mush it up in the pot to make the beans a little creamier (I like my potato masher for this), and brown some sausage on the stovetop and add it to the pot. Stir, and serve over rice.
What I love about this recipe: Dinner’s made when I get home, it stays good if you leave it in the crockpot on “warm” (in the event that your husband walks in the door starving at 9:30 p.m.), it’s good for lunches the next day and it freezes well.
But really, if it’s good enough for Satchmo, it’s good enough for me.