It seems just about everyone with a Louisiana pedigree has a secret recipe for making the region's signature dish — red beans and rice.
Which makes it a bit like chili and barbecue. Any time you try to write a recipe for it, no matter how you make it, no matter what you put in it, folks will line up to tell you that you got it wrong. It's one of the things that makes tradition-rich recipes such as this so wonderful. People really care about what goes in the pot.
In the case of red beans and rice, some people flavor the dish with salt pork, some use bacon, or pork hocks, or ham bones. Andouille sausage is pretty much a given, ditto for some sort of red bean. However you go, it's bound to be delicious, filling and a perfect one-pot meal.
For our recipe, we borrowed ideas from various classic versions. We went with the deep flavors of a smoked pork hock augmented by andouille sausage and salt pork for a deeply flavorful stew-like meal. To make it a whole-grain dish, you can substitute brown rice for the white.
RED BEANS AND RICE WITH ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE
This recipe is written for using dried beans, which have a better texture than canned. We use the traditional method of soaking the beans in water overnight. If you'd rather skip that, you also can use the so-called shock method. To do this, in a large pot combine 3 quarts of water, the dried beans and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-high for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse, then proceed with the recipe.
Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (plus bean soaking or boiling time)
1 pound dried red beans
4 ounces salt pork, diced
1 pound smoked pork hocks
1 pound andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-rounds
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large stalks of celery, diced
2 green bell peppers, cored and diced
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups cooked (hot) long grain white rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 scallions, thinly sliced
DIRECTIONS: Fill a large pot or bowl with water, then add the beans. Stir, then cover and set aside to soak overnight.
When ready to cook, drain the beans and set aside.
In a large, deep pot with a heavy bottom, such as a Dutch oven, over medium heat, brown the salt pork until crispy, about 12 minutes. Add the pork hocks, sausage, onion, garlic, celery, bell peppers and Cajun seasoning. Cook until starting to brown, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Add the bay leaves, thyme, stock and the drained beans. Simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beans are tender. If the mixture gets too dry, add water a small amount at a time. Season with hot sauce, salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, stir together the rice, parsley and scallions. Serve with the red beans.
Nutrition information per serving: 680 calories; 250 calories from fat (37 percent of total calories); 28 g fat (10 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 70 mg cholesterol; 71 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 38 g protein; 1110 mg sodium.