Easy Red Beans and Rice dish with a dash of U.S. history. Red beans are cooked New Orleans style which means creamy, rich, and flavorful.
Red beans and rice are synonymous with New Orleans, but how did that become so? In an earlier post on Haitian Soupe Joumou (Beef and Pumpkin Soup), I shared its connection to the successful Haitian slave revolt against the French. Well, this victory had major repercussions for New Orleans and it’s origins as an American city.
The great French general Napolean had visions of colonizing Louisiana. But in the process of trying to reclaim Haiti from the former slaves that had earlier soundly defeated the French, he got his ass kicked so thoroughly, he and French leaders decided to abandon plans for an empire in the Americas. I mean they were so shook, they sold Louisiana territory to that paper chaser Thomas Jefferson at a bargain price in what is known as the Louisiana Purchase. Now I remember learning about the Louisiana Purchase in high school but I donâ€™t recall any mention of a Haitian Slave Revolt. For those unfamiliar with this important moment in American History, the Purchase allowed the U.S. to open up the Mississippi Valley, expanding is territories and slavery which meant and led to greater economic might. Jefferson had been seeking to by only New Orleans, but Napolean offered up all of the French lands west of the Mississippi which included after basically deciding to get out of the slavery business. American acquisition of Louisiana was the result of the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of former brave African slaves. Yet somehow we as a Nation continue to ignore, dismiss, vilify, and exploit the very people we owe for our prosperity as a country.
Ha, the irony! The success of the Haitian revolution had a direct impact on the expansion of the U.S. We built our empire on this lopsided deal in the same way Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys fleeced the Vikings with that Herschel Walker trade and netted three super bowls in five years. To quote that great American Alexander Hamilton, to the deadly climate of St. Domingo (Haiti), and to the courage and obstinate resistance made by its black inhabitants are we indebted. [The] truth is, Bonaparte (Napolean) found himself absolutely compelled and not by Jefferson to relinquish his daring plan of colonizing the banks of the Mississippi. Just how big was the purchase – it doubled the size of the U.S.
What makes this Red Beans and Rice Dish New Orleans Style
So what does this have to do with red beans and rice you ask? The block in Haiti was so hot, those white evacuees from Haiti sought refuge in New Orleans. Anyway one of the food items they brought with them were red kidney beans. Monday is red beans and rice day in NOLA. Story has it that for housewives way back in the day Monday was laundry day and with no washing machines, they cleaned all clothing by hand leaving no time to cook, so Monday dinners had to be something that could cook by itself; enter Red beans. Beans were soaked overnight, then Sunday dinner’s ham bone was thrown in the pot for flavor as the beans simmered all day into a creamy goodness. It is this smoky creaminess that makes them New Orleans style!
Today, in most cases depending on preference, the beans seasoned with that holy Cajun Trinity (celery, onions, and bell peppers) are cooked down to almost paste-like. Slow and seemingly all-day simmering with bay leaf, fresh thyme and spices like pepper, salt, paprika, and cayenne render aromatic bliss.
Red Beans and Rice Cooking Tips
- Soak your beans for at least 8 hours
- Season early and often at different phases of cooking
- Most recipes call for pork (sausage and ham hocks) but chicken and turkey alternatives work well
- Andouille sausages are already spicy, so don’t go crazy with the cayenne.
Making Red Beans and Rice with Sausage
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Easy Red Beans and Rice with Sausage
- 1 pound red kidney beans
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 pound cooked chicken andouille sausage cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
- 4 ribs celery finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon ground sage
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Kosher salt
- Smoked turkey parts necks, wings, butt
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Cooked white rice for serving
- Place beans in a pot of salted cold water (add a few tbsp of kosher salt and let dissolve) and cover. Set aside at room temperature overnight. Drain and rinse
- In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove sausage to a napkin covered bowl and let drain.
- Add onion, bell pepper, and celery to the pot cooking in the rendered sausage grease. Add additional vegetable oil if needed.
- Season as you go with salt, pepper and paprika cooking and stirring, until vegetables have softened, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook, stirring for about a minute.
- Add cayenne, sage, black pepper and more paprika. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add sausage, beans, smoked turkey, thyme, oregano, bay leaves and enough water to cover by about 2 inches Bring to a boil and reduce to a bare simmer. Cover and cook until beans are completely tender about 3 hours. Check every 1/2 hour after the first two hours for tenderness. After an hour of cooking add more seasoning (paprika, salt, pepper)
- Remove lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened and turned creamy, about 30 minutes.
- If beans start to look dry before theyâ€™re done, then add water and continue simmering. Discard bay leaves and thyme stems. Serve red beans over steamed white rice.