Red Beans and Rice, Cajun Style

Cajun Red Beans and Rice, once a Sunday stable. Sunday was wash day, and chores day. It was easy to put on a pot of beans and throw in the ham bone from Saturday’s dinner. Red Beans and Rice is a meal, not a side dish and goes very well with a nice green salad.

You can use red kidney beans or red beans.  I prefer red beans. I also make a double batch and freeze a couple of quarts for a surprise meal down the road.

Here are 2 pounds of red beans that have soaked overnight. The soaking softens the beans as well as removing the sugars that cause flatulence.

The drawback to the traditional soaking is the loss of flavor.

If you choose to not presoak your beans, be prepared to add more liquid during the cook and to extend the cooking time.

Either way, sort through the beans to remove all floaters, and foreign stuff like twigs, sand etc.

The next step is to saute the onions, garlic and green onions.

One of the fastest ways to ruin the edge of your knife is to scrape the cutting board, here I use the back of the blade, maintaining the cutting edge.

The recipe I am following came from the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbooks dating back to the 1970’s. It should also be noted that this is a Cajun, not a Creole recipe.  Think of Cajun as country and Creole as city.

The recipe is located at the bottom

What prompted me to make this for dinner was a stop for a snack in Hubbard, Oregon, home of Voget Meats.  They make some of the best smoked sausages and smoked pork chops that have ever graced my table. In their showcase where these ham hocks and they they left with me, along with my beef stick.

about 20 minutes before the beans are finished, remove the hocks and let cool down, Strip off the meat and return the ham to the pot.

We served this with white rice and sprinkled a little green onion on top.

Earlier I mentioned that this was Cajun, not Creole. If it was prepared in a New Orleans restaurant then it would have been a fancier version, as there might be Andouilli Sausage, more peppers or additional hot, hot sauce.

Instead of the onions, the Holy Trinity would have been the base. Basil, sage, parsley would have added an additional layer of flavor. The list of changes could go on.

I feel if you want to really experience great Louisiana cooking you should start in the country and progress to the city.  I love it all, well maybe not Okra.

 

RED BEANS AND RICE
Serves 4-6

6 cups water
1 pound dried small red beans or 1 pound dried red kidney beans
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup finely chopped scallions, including 3-inches of the green tops, divided use
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 cups water
1 (1 pound) smoked ham hock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 cups freshly cooked long-grained rice (for serving)

In a heavy 3-4 quart saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans and boil briskly, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can soak the beans over night in water.) In either case, drain and rinse the beans in a sieve set over a large bowl. Set the beans aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy 4 or 5 quart casserole or stockpot. When the foam begins to subside, add 1/2 cup of the scallions, the onions and the garlic and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.

Stir in the beans and 4 cups water, the ham hocks, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are quite soft. Check the pot from time to time and, if the beans seem dry, add up to 1 cup more water, a few tablespoons at a time. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, stir frequently and mash some of the softest beans against the side of the pan to form a thick sauce for the remaining beans.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Cut the meat away from the bones and remove and discard the skin, fat and gristle. Cut the meat into 1/4-inch dice and return it to the beans.

Taste the beans for seasoning and serve at once, directly from a large heated tureen. Place the rice and remaining 1/2 cup of scallions in separate bowls and present them with the beans.

Note: In Louisiana, red beans and rice are traditionally made with a leftover ham bone and you may substitute a ham bone for the ham hocks in this recipe. Without trimming off the meat, cut the bone into 2 or 3 inch pieces with a hacksaw, so that the marrow inside the pieces will melt and flavor the beans. Add the pieces of bone to the soaked beans and water and pour in enough additional water to cover then completely. When the beans are cooked, remove the bones from the pot, trim off and dice the meat, and return it to the beans. Discard the bones.


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Roasted Marinara, thick and tasty

Canning season is here, so get Peter Piper’s Pickles picked and go to work. Well, we like pickles but not that much. What we do love is a great tomato sauce.

A great tomato sauce? Yes a sauce for all occasions, with a tomato flavor to knock your socks off. The only way that’s going to happen, is to use farm fresh tomatoes, and make it yourself.

We purchased our tomatoes, yes purchased. Our little garden consists of 10 tomato plants that get half the sunlight they need, great for our table use, some drying and a little canning, but not enough for the pantry.

We went to Wilco, a local farm hardware and supply for their once a year canning sale. We purchased 40 pounds of tomatoes, 20 pounds of onions, and a case of apples for Francene’s applesauce.

The preparation is pretty straight forward, but does take most of the day.

Pick your weapon of choice. I would love to tell you which one, but everyone has their preference and hand size. I opted for the Nakiri and a paring knife, and a 10″ chef’s knife for the onions. Francene used her 5″ Petite Santoku.

Half or quarter, depending on tomato size and remove most of the seeds. Also, do a very rough or large chop of as many onions as you would care to have in your Marinara sauce, same with bell peppers. We did probably 8 pounds of onions and 6 large peppers.

Now start the roasting, I use a little sea salt and some of our garden herb mix.  Place on cooling racks on baking sheets and roast for 30 minutes at 425° . Remove from oven and transfer to a container large enough to hold everything. Continue for the next several hours. If you know you will be seasoning towards a Latin flavor or Italian flavor you might as well have an appropriate drink or two along the way.

After everything has been roasted, transfer the roasted tomatoes, onions and peppers with a large slotted spoon leaving the liquid behind.

We now ran the batch through a food processor to achieve a coarse consistency. Then we brought everything up to a simmer on the stove top, seasoned to taste remembering that the final use hadn’t been decided. In other words, allow for a re-seasoning appropriate for the dish it will be used in.

Follow the canning instructions for your canning equipment. We show both the large pot and the pressure cooker. We use the pressure cooker as a second large pot.

We ended up with 12 quarts of marinara.  With that great hindsight most of us have, we should have gone for 24 pints of a very rich and thick marinara sauce. Probably about 1/3  of the way between a normal marinara and paste.

This allows us to use full thickness, or thin with water or use either stock or wine as a thinner.

I must add that I always just cooked my tomatoes, seasoned them and canned them. But my friend, Kris Horn, told me how she likes to roast the marinara ingredients and also adds what ever strikes her fancy at the time. You could add most anything like carrots, artichoke hearts etc. to end up with YOUR sauce..

I tried roasting and then freezing two years ago, cooking and canning last year, and this year roasting and canning. I think this will be the preferable way from now on.

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Louisiana Andouille Sausage, making your own or that store bought stuff

Hopefully the title will tell you what I think about that packaged stuff. In the past I have purchased off the shelf and it has always been disappointing. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we decided to start making our own sausage, not just andouille but kielbasa, breakfast patties, stuffed pork sausage with jalapenos, the list goes on. Sure, you have to deal with casings, grinding meat and stuffing away, but the end results are sure worth it.

Sausage days are either when it’s gone and we need it or holiday meat sales. I was in the local supermarket and they had pork shoulder at $1.49 a pound, an okay price but to sweeten the deal it was buy one, get one. 2 little piggy’s came home with me.

One went into the freezer for some smoked pulled pork and the other for andouille.

I start by cutting the meat into 1 inch strips after removing the blade. Save the blade and all other bones for making your bone broth. You don’t make your own bone broth? Save the bones anyway and find some that does. Maybe they will share with you.

We use the greatest multi-tasker made, the Kitchen Aid mixer and a host of their attachments. It’s a great machine for the home cook. Grind the meat with a medium cutter and it goes pretty quickly. After grinding you mix in your seasoning. We use a slightly modified version or Emeril Lagasse’s Essence. We use 1/4 cup per 2 1/2 pounds of meat. You should then add 1/3 cup ice water (we use 1/3 cup red wine) per 2 1/2 lbs meat. Mix well and put back into the refrigerator for an overnight melding of flavors.

I suggest you start with Emeril’s Essence and then modify for taste or any other good Louisiana seasoning recipe. The secret to Andouille is like all Cajun and Creole cooking. Use what’s available and season to taste.

We cook with wine a lot, some of it even goes into the food.

  • Ingredients for Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
    2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    2 tablespoons salt
    2 tablespoons garlic powder
    1 tablespoon black pepper
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
    1 tablespoon dried thyme

Day 2, set up the sausage stuffer and load your rinsed casing onto the tube. Although one can do the job, two makes it easier. We do a limp stuff instead of filling the casing, this allows us to tie off separate links (yes, we can spin, squeeze and reverse spin but it’s hard to get separate links that way). To help the casing slide off the tube keep dripping water onto it.

I like links around 1 foot or a little longer. When using in a recipe the 1 foot link is just about right.

Next comes the smoking, this is what makes or breaks the sausage. In the beginning I smoked the links at around 200° but the sausage cooked too quickly with getting enough smoke. Now it’s set for 160° and takes about 2 hours to finish. Perfect

No respectable Gumbo is without a good, smoked andouille sausage. Andouille may be substituted for many recipes calling for a smoked sausage such as the Spanish Paella and Jambalaya.

This is a perishable product and we do not add nitrates so right into freezer for these.

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Those glorious Shallots

Shallots are a wonderful alternative to onions and garlic, true or false? Well the answer is both. Onions, garlic and shallots are of the same family but all taste a bit different and affect your breath differently.

We have always been onion and garlic people and only played with the shallots. Generally because they are expensive, well at least compared to onions and garlic.

This past couple of years we have added shallots to out home garden. Year one was the learning curve. You plant the whole container (starts) in one place and they overcrowd and stunt each other, spread them apart (year two) and you get a nice crop. The picture of shallots on the patio table was 1/2 the crop of one box from the garden store. These where planted in an above ground 15 gallon flower flower pot.

Shallots have a very delicate flavor and I wouldn’t waste them in a heavy dish. Substitute onions with shallots in a gumbo or stew and you have lost what the shallot has to offer.

Where we use them the most is in lighter soups, sautes and thinly sliced and layered on top of a nice fillet of fish, either paper wrapped or baked. They also are wonderfull thinly sliced or diced in a garden fresh salad.

Shallots can be handled much the same way as you would garlic, a nice slow roast at about 425° for about 40 minutes. Use right away or store in the refrigerator and use in vinigretts and sauces. These shallots will be much sweeter because of the caramelizing

We have also been experimenting with drying foods as a way to extend their shelve life and shallots have proven to be an exceptional experiment. Our dried shallots are used primarily in soups, don’t bother to rehydrate them as the soup liquid will suffice. Give them a quick chop and toss them in.

For storage, store fresh shallots in a cool , dry location and do not store onions and shallots next to potatoes as both expel gases that will promote the other to spoil quickly. Our dried sliced shallots are stored in an airtight container, we prefer the Airscape containers as they have a valved insert that you press down over the shallots, limiting the amount of trapped air.

If they are new to you, then give them a try when preparing a more delicate dish, we are sure you will be pleased.

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The local farmers market

15 reasons why you should stop and check them out. Almost all small towns have them.

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