I am elated to show you the voodoo of red beans and rice. Our goal is replicate the traditional recipe from New Orleans using ingredients easily found in your grocery store. Camilia beans are the traditional beans that are used in New Orleans. If you can't find Camilia, then chose a small red bean, this is also called the Mexican bean.
Brining the beans is an important step because it will soften the beans so as you cook them they will not crack open. This step will also season the beans from the inside out. The key to this stellar dish is to use the right substitutions for the hard to find ingredients.
3 tablespoons of table salt
1 pound small red beans, rinsed and picked over
4 slices bacon, chopped small
1 onion, chopped small
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped small
1 celery rib, chopped small
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups chicken broth (I use Better than Bouillon paste mixed with water or homemade)
5 cups water
8 ounces andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch moons
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
Hot sauce (optional, but strongly encouraged)
Brine the beans
As mentioned above, if you want authentic Louisiana red beans and rice you must start with a pound of dried beans. Pick them over to make sure they are free of debris like small rocks. In a large pot add 3 tablespoons of salt to 4 quarts of water, add the pound of beans and let this sit on the counter at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
If you don't have the time to let this sit overnight, you can quick-brine the beans by bringing the water, salt, and beans to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat once it boils, cover and let stand for an hour.
Whichever method you use, drain the beans into a colander and rinse well with water.
The signature flavors for Louisiana Red Beans and Rice comes from three kinds of pork products: Andouille sauce, pickled pork shoulder, and tasso. Tasso is a heavily spiced ham which is smoked until it is almost like a jerky.
Since these are hard to find at a regular grocery store, here are the best substitutions. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to render the fat to replace the tasso, about 8 minutes. Next, add the chopped onion, green pepper, and celery; cook, stirring frequently, until veggies are soft, about 6 minutes. This is called the holy trinity which is the foundation of most Cajun cooking. They establish the traditional flavor base and permeate the dish giving it dimension.
Spice it up
Because we are not using the tasso we need to make up for the flavor with some spices. Stir in garlic, thyme, paprika, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add beans and broth
Stir in beans, broth, and water; bring to boil over high heat. In order for the starch from the beans to thicken the cooking liquid, it is important to maintain a vigorous simmer. Reduce the heat from a violent boil down to a vigorously simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are just soft and liquid begins to thicken, 45 to 60 minutes. The beans should be tender but not exploded.
Andouille is the traditional sausage found in Louisiana Red Beans and Rice. If you can’t find andouille sausage, substitute kielbasa. Add the bite-sized andouille sausage to the pot. The next key ingredient is pickled pork shoulder which is really had to find, so our substitute is to add 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar now, and then again at the very end of cooking. Adding red wine vinegar at two different points during the cooking process provides all the bright acidity of traditional pickled meats. Continue to cook at a simmer for another 30 minutes.
Most often in recipes that are served alongside rice, I would say, "follow directions on the bag of rice." But here I'm offering preparation suggestions for getting the right kind fo fluffy rice that will perfectly soak in the liquid from our beans.
First, rinse 2 cups of long grain white rice in a colander until the water runs clear. This step helps remove some extra starch so that the rice is fluffy in the finished product.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of butter and then coat the rice in the fat and saute. Stir until the rice cooks a little, becoming aromatic and translucent on the ends. Add 3 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. This ratio is different than the back of the rice bag but oddly enough, using less water gives us fluffier and more tender grains. Once the water boils, turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 18 minutes. Turn off the heat, wrap the lid in a kitchen towel, and put back on the pot. Let this sit for 15 minutes to steam while you finish the red beans.
Finish and serve
The beans will have reduced more over these last 30 minutes and should not be soupy. Add a teaspoon more of red wine vinegar, stir and taste for seasoning.
Serve alongside or on top of fluffy white rice, top with scallions and pass the hot sauce.