Louisiana Style Red Beans
Growing up in Louisiana almost guarantees that you will be raised on red beans and rice. It is of Creole heritage rather than Cajun, but is loved by everyone in Louisiana and most southern states. In many households Monday was wash day. Because the red beans could simmer on the stove while the wash was being done, facilitating multi-asking without a lot of oversight, the cook could check the liquid level and stir every time she went by the kitchen which helped to release the gas in the beans.
Our family did not do the Monday wash day tradition. We had red bens and rice whenever we chose and they were generally served with a hot pan of cornbread and a big bowl of potato salad. Yes Ma’am, lets gobble down those carbohydrates. Of course the beans either had ham or sausage in them for seasoning, so there was definitely protein for balance.
I try to keep Andouille (An-doo-ee) sausage in my freezer to use with my beans and Jambalaya. The sausage imparts a flavor that is so “Louisiana” that it is not quite the same for us when cooked with regular sausage, although any good beef, pork or beef and pork sausage will do. We did not eat a lot of ham in my family so we tended to go with sausage over ham, but ham is a delicious seasoning, as is bacon.
Most dry beans are cooked in a similar fashion, wash, soak, add liquid and seasonings and simmer until tender but not mushy. Red beans are most authentic when you use small red beans rather than kidney beans. They have a creamy rich taste that sets them apart from Kidney beans. However, if you can’t find the small red beans. Kidney beans will do in a pinch.
Serves 6 generously
- 1 pound dried small red beans, or kidney beans
- 4 quarts cold water
- seasoning meat – 6 slices bacon or 1-2 pounds (Andouille or other beef or pork – not polish) sausage, and/or 1 ham hock
- 1 medium to large onion, diced
- ¼ cup olive oil, other liquid shortening, or bacon grease
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1½ teaspoons ground pepper, black or cayenne
- 1 quart hot water, more if needed
Rinse beans very well, picking out stones and debris. In a large pot, over high heat, bring beans and 1 gallon cold water to boil. Turn heat to medium and boil gently for 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow beans to soak 2 – 4 hours.
When using sausage, cut it into 1” lengths before cooking or cut bacon in 1 inch lengths. In large skillet, sauté seasoning meat(s) and onion in ¼ cup hot grease until onions become transparent. Add garlic and continue sautéing on medium heat for about 3 minutes more.
While seasonings sauté, bring pot of presoaked beans to boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium and cook while seasonings sauté. Add cooked seasonings and bring bean pot back to a boil on high heat, stirring frequently. Turn heat to medium low, stir in salt and pepper and continue to cook at a gentle boil for about 1 hour, stirring every 10 – 15 minutes. Do not put a lid on pot. Stir often to release gas in beans and to prevent sticking. Add water as necessary being careful not to make beans soupy – you want the liquid to have a little “thickness” to it.
When beans are fork tender, taste liquid and adjust seasonings. Serve over rice and accompanied by hot cornbread.
Beans and rice or beans and cornbread make a deliciously healthy complete protein when eaten together. During the depression Americans consumed a lot of dry beans and rice because of the minimal price and good health benefits. Our family ate them weekly simply because we loved them, and we still love them to this day.
If you have not tried red beans and rice you are missing out on a real treat as well as a healthy meal. Why not try them this week and see what you have been missing?
Ya’ll have another down home delicious day now.