Red Beans and Rice — A Comfort to Your Soul

Beans beans, good for the heart! The more you eat, the more you … like ‘em!

You know I just couldn’t resist!

Seriously, red beans are good for you — full of iron, protein, and vitamin B. And they’re good for the wallet too! You can feed nearly a dozen people for under $10. And that, my friends, is a blessing.

Red beans and rice is usually considered to be a typical Louisiana dish, but we eat plenty of red beans in South Alabama where the Creole tradition from our neighbors to the west seeps into our pots and pans and onto our table. Everybody makes them a little bit differently, but I think Brother hits the nail on the head every time he makes them. That’s why I’m sharing his recipe with you today along with this little truism from him: Creamy beans are a comfort to the soul…

And, since he’s a priest, you can trust what he says about your soul.

Brother John’s Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried large red kidney beans (Camellia brand or China Doll is best.)
  • 1 large yellow onion minced
  • 2 stalks celery minced
  • Three cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 green bell pepper (not yellow or red) minced
  • I large bay leaf or two small ones
  • 2 tbsp. oil or bacon grease
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 lbs. smoked sausage, sliced –or-
  • 2 large smoked ham hocks (excellent) –or-
  • 1 lb. bacon (fried already and broken into bite-size pieces) –or-
  • 1-½ lbs. ham bits and pieces
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Your favorite cayenne pepper sauce to taste. (Red Dot or Crystal, etc.)

Directions

  1. The first step is to soak the beans. Here there are two methods, both equally good:  the first is to soak the beans overnight in enough cold water to cover them by two inches. The second method is to put the dry beans in a pot and cover them with boiling water and let sit for thirty minutes. Either way you do it, it is essential that you pour the soaking water off the beans and give them a little rinse. This is what takes away all the “gas-making” effect of the beans.
  2. Put the beans in a good-sized pot with a lid, and cover them by one to two inches with fresh, cold water.  Add salt and put on the stove to boil, stirring from time to time.
  3. Meanwhile, mince your onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and fry it in a skillet in the hot oil until it “sweats” or appears translucent. You can also add the bay leaves and dried thyme at this stage, taking care not to break up the bay leaves. Once this “seasoning” is all cooked, add it to the boiling pot of beans.
  4. Brown the sausage in the skillet, removing it from the skillet with a slotted spoon or some such thing, in order to let the grease drain off a bit. Add it to the boiling pot of beans. If you use smoked ham hocks, this browning stage is not needed, nor if you are using ham pieces. Browning the sausage makes it look pretty, because if you put the raw sausage in the beans, it’s just going to look like boiled sausage on the plate, and it’s just not as pretty to eat.
  5. Once everything is in the pot, make sure it is at a furious boil, then cut it down to low heat or simmer, cover with a lid, and cook it, stirring about every five minutes, for at least an hour. If the beans look dry and need a little water, put a little boiling water in to keep them from scorching, but usually if the water is boiling out, it means the heat is too high.
  6. After about an hour, take out about ½ to 1 cup of the beans with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the juice, and mash ‘em on a plate with the back of a fork or a potato masher. Put the bean mash back in the pot, stirring thoroughly. This will make the beans nice and creamy.
  7. Taste for seasoning, add hot sauce to taste, and cook for another twenty minutes.
  8. Cut off the heat and let the beans settle for about three to five minutes.
  9. Serve with hot white rice, and voilá!