When my husband John and I were early in our relationship, we took our first “weekend trip” to New Orleans. (This was years before the Katrina disaster.) New Orleans was an incredible place, especially when it comes to food, and I fell in love with Cajun and Creole cuisine at that point. Red beans and rice was something I particularly wished to recreate. Creamy, spicy, smoky, delicious comfort food, and it was cheap to make! The following recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s book, Louisiana Real and Rustic. (because when you want Cajun or Creole food, who better to ask than Emeril? Okay, maybe Justin Wilson, but I don’t have his books…) I reduced the amount of ham by half, and used andouille sausage instead of regular smoked sausage. (I had some left over from another wonderful Emeril recipe, Emeril’s Gumbo Turkey Ya-Ya. This is John’s specialty dish he makes every Thanksgiving holiday. This year, we even made it for Christmas Eve. Want to make it? You can see a copy of the recipe here: http://www.emerils.com/recipe/1181/Gumbo-Turkey-Ya-ya ) This is wonderful served over steamed rice. If you like a bit more spice, a dash or two of Tabasco does nicely.
2 T vegetable oil (or bacon grease)
1 c chopped onion
½ c chopped bell pepper
½ c chopped celery
1 t salt
½ t cayenne
¼ t ground black pepper
½ t fresh thyme leaves
4 bay leaves
½ lb chopped ham
½ lb andouille sausage, chopped (can substitute smoked sausage)
1 lb dried red beans, rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained
3 T chopped garlic
8-10 c water
Heat oil or bacon grease in stockpot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, black pepper, and thyme for about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, ham, and sausage and sauté for 5-6 minutes more. Add the beans, garlic, and enough water to cover the contents in the pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to medium and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours. Add more water if the mixture becomes too dry or thick.
Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to mash about half of the mixture against the side of the pot. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 ½ hours, or until the mixture is creamy and the beans are soft. Add more water if it becomes too thick. The mixture should be soupy, but not watery.
Remove the bay leaves and serve over steamed rice.