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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Yay, Mardi Gras! Also known in English as Happy Fat Tuesday! Mardi Gras, a holiday celebrated in New Orleans, and around the country. I've never been to any Mardi Gras festivities in Louisiana (never been to LA for that matter). Ron has been to Mardi Gras. He went as a young college guy. He went with 20+ lacrosse players. I saw one picture. I never looked, asked, or talked about it again.
Mardi Gras occurs every year on the day before Ash Wednesday. People continue to party and throw down until Lent begins at the stroke of midnight. The "fat" part comes in because people tend to eat fattier foods before the ritual fasting that comes with Lent. I don't completely understand the concept. To me, it's kind of like shoving a bunch of cake in your mouth before the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, but whatever. I like holidays so I'll celebrate Mardi Gras too! I was torn with what to make for Mardi Gras this year. Initially, I had planned on baking a King Cake, but saw this recipe posted and felt it appropriate to try and make some actual food with the time that I had. This recipe makes an absolute ton of food. The recipe yields 6-8 servings, but I swear my portions must be small because we had a lot more than 6-8 servings! The recipe came from the January 2010 Cook's Illustrated. Like everything I see, I have been wanting to make it ever since I saw it. It is an interesting take on a red beans and rice recipe. Having never been to New Orleans, unfortunately I have no comparison. But, this was a lovely little taste of the Big Easy at home. Serve it up with some cornbread and enjoy!
Cajun Red Beans and Rice
from Cooks Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2010, found on Pink Parsley
Yield: 6-8
  • 1 pound small red beans, rinsed and picked over* (see Instruction #1)
  • salt
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped fine
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1/2-1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (1-2 ribs)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 cups water
  • 8-10 ounces andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1-2 tsp red wine vinegar, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
  • hot sauce, for serving
  • Cooked white rice, for individual servings
  1. Dissolve 3 Tbsp of salt in 4 quarts of cold water in a large pot. For Overnight Brine: Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. For Quick-Soak: Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat, cover, and stand for 1 hour.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans.
  3. In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until browned and almost fully rendered, 5-8 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery; cook, stirring frequently until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, paprika, cayenne pepper, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in beans, broth, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat but just enough to still maintain a vigorous simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook 45-60 minutes, or until the beans are soft and the liquid has begun to thicken.
  5. Stir in the sausage and 2 tsp of the red wine vinegar. Cook until the liquid is thick and the beans are fully tender and creamy, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and vinegar. Serve over rice, sprinkled with scallions and hot sauce.

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