Autumn on the Cape is a long, lovely season of beach plums, mums and pumpkins. It will soon be time to become reacquainted with soups and slow braises, and one-pot meals like Red Beans and Rice.
I remember reading that Red Beans and Rice was once a popular dish on laundry day in Creole country because it could be set up in the morning and left to simmer while the cook was otherwise occupied. Still a good idea today, even if you’re busy on the computer instead of hanging out sheets to dry. Interesting how the “peasant food” of every culture has such staying power. Something to be said for foods based on economy and flavor. The fact that they are generally nutritious is a bonus.
This red beans and rice recipe is far from authentic ( i.e canned small red beans instead of dry kidney beans, kielbasa instead of andouille sausage ) but its flavors ring true. As a matter of fact, it’s not really a recipe, Like many things that I cook, it’s a compilation of recipes and stories that I’ve read, and sense memory of food that I’ve tasted.
Red Beans and Rice
1 large can or two small cans of Goya small red beans (rinsed and drained)
4 slices of bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 of a large green pepper, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
2-3 bay leaves, depending on size
6 cups of liquid (1/2 chicken broth; half water)
1/2 lb. kielbasa (thin, half-moon slices)
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
long grain white rice
optional garnishes: sliced scallions, shredded cheese, sour cream, hot sauce
1. Brown the diced bacon in a large, heavy pot. Add the onion, green pepper, celery, and a little bit of oil if the bacon is lean. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables have softened.
2. Add the garlic, thyme, cayenne, paprika, black pepper and bay leaves. Stir to combine and cook for about a minute.
3. Add the beans and the liquid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer vigorously for about an hour. Stir it occasionally.
4. When the beans begin to soften, and the liquid begins to thicken (after about an hour) stir in the kielbasa and the red wine vinegar. Continue to simmer until the beans are really tender and the liquid is thick. This should take another 45-60 minutes. Check for seasoning to see if you want to add some salt.
5. Serve it over long grain white rice. Scallions sprinkled on top add a nice bite.
Doing this in the morning and reheating it for dinner is a good thing. This only gets better with time. I know that garnishes like shredded cheese, sour cream and hot sauce make it sound like a taco, but they are worth trying. Combining cultures can’t be bad when the end result tastes so good!