When I wrote about Coq au Vin nearly one year ago, I mentioned the deliciously saucy food memoir, Trail of Crumbs. Later, the memoir came up again when I told you about the panko crusted lamb rib chops with spring cherry reduction. In both cases the book was an inspiration for another dish. Today, the red beans and rice come straight from the drooled on pages of the book itself. Before you think that a recipe for beans is simple, boring, or plain, let me caution you to hold your judgment until after the tasting. This simmering pot of Cajun soul takes the word 'bean' to a whole new level.
First of all, this recipe calls for a ham hock. If you have ever wandered into a Southern kitchen you may have heard of this. A ham hock is used to season pots of beans, collards, or other greens. Colloquially referred to as a 'knuckle', technically though (do you really want to know what the ham hock is?) the ham hock is the joint connecting the leg to the foot. I know this is gruesome, gorry, and gross to some, but I must admit that the beans taste deep, full, and delicious. Most butchers or meat departments can wrangle a ham hock for you in the unlikely event that you do not already have one in your freezer. (Hah!)
I will be honest with you and admit that often when a recipe calls for a freakish ingredient that has never been on my grocery list before, I typically try to maneuver without it. The ham hock might have been one of those items, but I must tell you that it was worth buying for this recipe. It truly does give the beans a depth of flavor.
Sunée does not say the beans need to be soaked overnight, but I find that beans cook faster and easier when soaked. This photo above is of the lovely little beans after soaking all night. They are so plump and sweet looking. When you soak beans, make sure to cover them with plenty of water. After they soak over night, rinse the beans well, and then use them in your recipe.
After soaking, the recipe is as simple as 1, 2, 3. I would mark this as a perfect meal for a crowd. The recipe makes a whole heap of delicious beans, and all you need is a pot of rice to go with them. Well, maybe also throw in a spinach salad and a few ales just for good measure.
On this cold, rainy, February day this is just the sort of dinner I look forward to.
I hope you enjoy it with a wealth of good friends.
Uncle Kerry's Monday Red Beans and Rice serves 6-8
from Trail of Crumbs, by Kim Sunée
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon salt (I did not add this)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 smoked ham hock (about 3/4 pound)
1 pound dried red beans or kidney beans (I soaked mine over night, and then rinsed them)
1 teaspoon liquid crab boil (I did not use this)
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I used 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning)
2 or 3 fresh springs thyme (I used 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 pound smoked sausage (such as andouille or keilbasa), sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional. I did not use it)
Hot sauce, to taste
Garnishes: green onions, shallots in vinegar, minced parsely
Serve over boiled white rice
1. Heat butter in large soup pot or Dutch oven. Sauté onion, pepper, and celery for 7 minutes over medium heat
2. Add garlic, salt (if using) and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add smoked ham hock, beans, liquid crab boil, Creole seasoning (or Cajun seasoning), and thyme, and stir. Add enough water to cover beans (about 2 quarts). Stir
3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and let simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. If beans get too thick, add a bit more water 1/2 cup at a time. Add sausage to pot and let cook for another 30 minutes, or until tender. If you want creamier beans, smash a few against the side of the pot. You may thicken the sauce by mixing cornstarch with about 3 tablespoons cold water and stir that slurry into beans (I did not do this)
4. Garnish if desired. Serve over hot white rice. enjoy