Southfacin’ Cook’s Red Beans & Rice by Patsy Brumfield

cook-mugHello, PorchScene visitors. I’m a near-retirement investigative reporter who got my first big job at the New Orleans Times-Picayune the same fall Ole Miss classmate Archie Manning came to the Saints. During my stint in NOLA, I learned what really good food tastes like and determined to learn to cook some of its standards. In “Southfacin’ cook,” I’ll offer tips and recipes for newcomers, who’d like to adapt culinarily with more help than I had. I’ll also draw from local food legends. Send me your recipe requests, too, and I’ll do my best to help you learn Southfacin’ cookin’, too. patsy.brumfied@gmail.com

ESSENTIAL NOLA RED BEANS & RICE

(You’ll find I don’t always cook like NOLA experts. Some of this comes from my part-French grandmother, the beautiful and willful Rosalie Dial. This recipe started with her and matured in my kitchen across 40 years.)

UTENSILS - Large dutch oven. Wooden spoon. Chopping board, blender, chopping knife. Freezer bags, for storage, if you’re not having a party. Can’t make just “a little” of this.

COOK’S NOTES: You cannot make good beans without good sausage. If you don’t already have a favorite, buy small quantities at your local grocery and see what you like. (Editor’s Note: May we suggest Conecuh) Also, remember, good beans must be cooked slowly. If you try to speed it up with too much heat, the beans will never get tender enough. I learned this the hard way. This recipe is about taste. You will learn what you like and how to adjust liquids, sweet and sour as you go along. A pinch of red-pepper flakes is good, if you like it with a little more pop. Always have Louisiana hot-sauce at the ready when you serve.

Photo courtesy of NewInNola.com

Photo courtesy of NewInNola.com

INGREDIENTS

2 lb. bag dried red kidney beans

1-1.5 lbs smoked pork sausage (cut into 2-inch links)

1 small bag carrot sticks

2 large onions

6 cloves fresh garlic or 6T pre-minced garlic

2-3 bay leaves

sugar

lemon

white vinegar

salt, pepper

(Later) RICE, enough for whomever you plan to serve. (I’ve started using brown rice. Cook 1 C with 1 3/4 C water etc. for just 30 mins. Container directions are too watery, mushy for my tastes.)

Serve (bowl or plate) with hot garlic bread and a green salad.

LET’S GET STARTED:

Rinse beans in warm water. Pour away water. In blender, add 1 C. carrot sticks and enough water to puree them. (I know this sounds weird, but trust me and Rosalie.)

redbeans2

Photo courtesy of NewInNola.com

Heat dutch oven on medium burner. Add sausage with 1/2 C. water. Cover. Cook sausage about 5-7 mins (you’re not cooking sausage, you’re sweating out some juice to start your beans in.) Remove sausage to plate.

redbeans3

Photo courtesy of NewInNola.com

Into dutch oven juice, layer bay leaves, roughly sliced onions, garlic, 1 T. sugar, salt, pepper. (Goal is to heat bay leaves to sweat out flavor oils.) Watch this and don’t let anything singe. Feel free to stir after a couple of minutes. If it looks like it needs water, add a little. Cook this 5-10 mins. Add contents of blender, beans and enough water to cover beans. (Remember, the beans will absorb water as they cook, so you will need to add a little water every now and then, as this cooks. The trick is to figure out how much is enough without being too much. We’ll talk about thickening as this gets done.)

Bring bean pot to a slight boil. (Stir every 10 mins or so but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to break the beans as they get more tender.) Turn down heat to simmer uncovered. Return sausage to pot. Don’t add any salt until you’ve cooked 10 mins. (Remember, sausage has salt to impart to juice.) Taste the water and see what you think. Add 1 T. vinegar. (It’s important to taste as you go along. Bean flavor depends on good juice. Now, you’ve got a sweet-sour-salty thing going on. This balance will determine  what you want it to taste like.)

Photo courtesy of NewInNola.com

Photo courtesy of NewInNola.com

Continue to simmer and stir every 10 mins. Make sure simmer isn’t too “hard.” Does it need more water? Object is to keep the beans just barely under water.

After an hour of slow simmer, taste your beans for tenderness. You don’t want them so tender that they all fall apart. Keep testing periodically until you’re satisfied. Beans should be getting done soon. Add juice of half lemon. Adjust other flavors as needed. Add pepper flakes now, if you like.

(Time to start your rice. Put garlic bread into oven.)

redbeans6

Photo courtesy of NewInNola.com

When your beans are done, look at the consistency. Do you want it thicker? I usually do.  If so, remove 1-2 C. beans, pour them into a metal bowl and use masher or pastry cutter to mash well for your thickener. When you’re done, add mashed beans back into pot and stir. (Some people use cornstarch to thicken. I’ve done this, too, but the reason to cook a large quantity of beans in the least amount of water is to have enough beans to use as the thickener. I think it tastes better this way.) Taste and make final adjustments like salt, sweet/sour, if necessary. (If you think it’s too sweet, a little lemon/vinegar can offset it. Reverse also is true.)

SERVE: Plate/bowl 3-to-1 beans to rice. Rice goes on bottom, then beans and sausage. And don’t forget the Louisiana HotSauce!

NOTE: Try to make more beans than you can eat at one sitting. They get better with a little time in the fridge (like 2-3 days). They also freeze very well for a dinner treat later without any of the hassle or time required!

Also, whenever you use bay leaves to flavor a recipe, retrieve them from the finished dish before you serve it. While I have never eaten a bay leaf, my mother Betty swore repeatedly it would kill you if you did. ‘Nuff said.

 

GARLIC BREAD

UTENSILS – Baking sheet, aluminum foil, bread knife, small bowl

INGREDIENTS

Loaf of your favorite french bread

1/2 C. margarine or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (remember margarine has more water in it)

1/4 C. olive oil

1/2 C. chopped parsley

4 cloves fresh garlic or 4 T. pre-minced garlic

pinch salt

(Some folks also like to add 1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese to this mixture. This is very good.)

OVEN – Preheat 325

LET’S GET STARTED:

With bread knife, slice loaf down center, lengthwise (horizontally to counter). Open bread, insides up.

In small bowl, combine softened margarine/butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic, pinch of salt (and parmesan, if you like it.)

Spread butter mix onto insides of bread. Put bread back together, wrap well in foil. Place bottom-up on baking sheet. Heat 10 mins. Turn top-side up, heat another 10-15 mins. (If you like your bread crunchier, peel back the foil when you turn it top-side up.

Remove from oven onto cutting board, slice across for serving in bread basket. Cover with clean kitchen towel, to help keep it warm (if it lasts that long.)

** With Red Beans & Rice, plus garlic bread, you are now officially cookin’ New Orleans.

(Contact PATSY with suggestions, questions or requests at patsy.brumfield@gmail.com.)

About the author

Patsy R. Brumfield is a Mississippi native, who grew up in the hometown newspaper business. After decades of plowing that field and others, she's moved herself to the capital, Jackson, where she's working on a pro-education project and plans to retire to courtroom reporting and sexy political interviews, if you can call that retirement. Her grandmother, the beautiful and willful Rosalie Dial, gave Patsy her first cooking lessons. In recent years, the TV cuisinaries have supplied new information about cooking and a new confidence to help other folks know what makes great food great. We hope you'll enjoy Patsy's foray into cooking, especially Southern cooking. While she's made great strides into the "healthier" aspects of making old recipes new, sometimes there's no avoiding the butter and cream. Just eat smaller portions and ask your favorite doctor about cholesterol meds. We all take 'em, at one time or another. Bon appetite!