I didn’t grow up with red beans and rice. In fact, when the Texans I live with (the one I’m married to and our dear neighbor) started getting misty eyed about red beans and rice the other day, I still thought it was literally just rice and beans. Turns out, it’s not. Now I’ve researched it, read too much about it, and tried my imposter-syndrome hand at making it. This food comes from the gulf, usually associated with Louisiana, but made its way over to the great nation of Texas and is the definition of a soul-satisfying comfort food.
Caveat, it’s ugly as hell and takes forever.
Ingredients: (serves 5-6)
- 1lb dry kidney beans
- 1 hunk of ham hock or hunk of unsliced ham*
- 1 – 1.5 lbs andouille sausage (cooked)
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 5 stalks celery, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp each cayenne, black pepper, basil
- 1 tsp salt
- 4-5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- 4-5 dashes of Tabasco or other vinegary hot sauce
- Vegetable oil
Soak the kidney beans overnight or all day, with double the amount of water covering the beans (they’ll soak up a lot of water). When you’re done soaking them and are ready to cook, drain the soaking water and make yourself a Texas Margarita. You’re in for a long ride, so might as well.
Cut the andouille sausage into whatever shape you want to eat (I cut mine into medallions on the diagonal). Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil to the a large soup pot, heat over medium-high, and sautee the sausage for 5-10 minutes to crisp and brown most of the pieces. Scoop the sausage out of the pot and set aside in a bowl for later, leaving the delicious greasy sausage oil in the pan.
Toss the diced celery, onion, green pepper (known as the Trinity in the Gulf tradition) in with the sausage oil and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Now add the soaked beans, the ham hock*, and ALL the spices, plus 8 cups of water. Bring back up to a rolling simmer/light boil, and cook for…..no joke……2-3 hours. I cooked mine for roughly 2ish hours and then we ate it because it was getting late, but I think it could have used an extra 30-45 more minutes. If it starts to get too thick, add water a little bit at a time. You want the liquid to keep reducing to get a super rich and nuanced flavor, but you also always want the beans covered with liquid.
At around 2 hours, mash half the beans so the stew gets thicker and creamier. The ideal texture here is somewhere in between stiff glop and soup.
Serve the beans and sausage with a serving of rice and top with scallions. And if you’re not serving to a group, it gets better the second day.
*Note: A ham hock has some ham meat and ham bone, which is what you really want. I learned the hard way through wanting to make this recipe that it’s surprisingly hard to find ham with a bone at the grocery store when it’s not holiday season. So I settled for a big hunk of unsliced ham that still had some skin and specified that it was smoked. I cut off a hunk of it and threw that in while the beans cooked. It adds great flavor and you can pull it out at the end so no one tries to eat a big hunk of ham.