By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today begins a summer series by Daily Journal reporters called “Teach Me Something” where we show how to do a variety of things and how things work.
By Patsy R. Brumfield
It’s my pleasure to bring our first “how to” to Daily Journal readers. For the past several months, I’ve been writing a cooking column for former DJ business reporter Carlie Kollath Wells’ “New in NOLA” blog after Carlie moved to New Orleans with her husband, Caleb.
My first recipe was this one, which I decided was the absolute priority for anyone living in the Crescent City, where I was a rookie reporter right out of college.
Key to making this delicious is good casing sausage, not the pattie kind. If you don’t have a favorite, buy small quantities at your local grocery and see what you like.
Also, remember, remember, good beans must be cooked slowly. If you try to speed it up with too much heat, the beans will never get tender enough. I learned this the hard way.
This recipe is about taste. You will learn what you like and how to adjust liquids, sweet and sour as you go along. A pinch of red pepper flakes is good, if you like it with a little more pop. Always have Louisiana hot-sauce at the ready when you serve.
One more note: Whenever you use bay leaves to flavor a recipe, retrieve them from the finished dish before you serve it. While I have never eaten a bay leaf, my mother, Betty, swore repeatedly it would kill you if you did. ‘Nuff said.
ESSENTIAL RED BEANS & RICE
Large dutch oven. Wooden spoon. Chopping board, blender, chopping knife. Freezer bags, for storage, if you’re not having a party. Can’t make just “a little” of this.
2 pounds bag dried red kidney beans
1-1.5 pounds smoked pork sausage (cut into 2-inch links)
1 small bag carrot sticks
2 large onions
6 cloves fresh garlic or 6 Tablespoons pre-minced garlic
2-3 bay leaves
(Later) RICE, enough for whomever you plan to serve. (I’ve started using brown rice. Bring to boil 1 cup with 13⁄4 cup water etc. for just 30 mins. Simmer, covered. White rice is same amount rice as water for 20 minutes. Container directions are too watery, mushy for my tastes.)
Serve (bowl or plate) with hot garlic bread and a green salad.
LET’S GET STARTED
Rinse beans in warm water. Pour away water. In blender, add 1 cup carrot sticks and enough water to puree them. (I know this sounds weird, but trust me and my half-French grandmother, Rosalie Dial.)
Heat dutch oven on medium burner. Add sausage with 1⁄2 cup water. Cover. Cook sausage about 5 minutes (you’re not cooking sausage, you’re sweating out some juice to start your beans in.) Remove sausage to plate.
Into dutch oven juice, layer bay leaves, roughly sliced onions, garlic, 1 Tablespoon sugar, salt, pepper. (Goal is to heat bay leaves to sweat out flavor oils.) Watch this and don’t let anything singe. Feel free to stir after a couple of minutes. If it looks like it needs water, add a little. Cook this 5-10 minutes. Add contents of blender, beans and enough water to cover beans. (Remember, the beans will absorb water as they cook, so you will need to add a little water every now and then, as this cooks. The trick is to figure out how much is enough without being too much. We’ll talk about thickening as this gets done.)
Bring bean pot to a slight boil. (Stir every 10 minutes or so but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to break the beans as they get more tender.) Turn down heat to simmer uncovered. Return sausage to pot. Don’t add any salt until you’ve cooked 10 minutes. (Remember, sausage has salt to impart to juice.) Taste the water and see what you think. Add 1 Tablespoon vinegar. (It’s important to taste as you go along. Bean flavor depends on good juice. Now, you’ve got a sweet-sour-salty thing going on. This balance will determine what you want it to taste like.)
Continue to simmer and stir every 10 minutes. Make sure simmer isn’t too “hard.” Does it need more water? Object is to keep the beans just barely under water.
After an hour of slow simmer, taste your beans for tenderness. You don’t want them so tender that they all fall apart. Keep testing periodically until you’re satisfied. Beans should be getting done soon. Add juice of half lemon. Adjust other flavors as needed. Add pepper flakes now, if you like.
(Time to start your rice. Put garlic bread into oven.)
When your beans are done, look at the consistency. Do you want it thicker? I usually do. If so, remove 1-2 cups cooked beans, pour them into a metal bowl and use masher or pastry cutter to mash well for your thickener. When you’re done, add mashed beans back into pot and stir. (Some people use cornstarch to thicken. I’ve done this, too, but the reason to cook a large quantity of beans in the least amount of water is to have enough beans to use as the thickener. I think it tastes better this way.) Taste and make final adjustments like salt, sweet/sour, if necessary. (If you think it’s too sweet, a little lemon/vinegar can offset it. Reverse also is true.)
SERVE: Plate/bowl 3-to-1 beans to rice. Rice goes on bottom, then beans and sausage.
NOTE: Try to make more beans than you can eat at one sitting. They get better with a little time in the fridge (like two to three days). They also freeze very well for a dinner treat later without any of the hassle or time required!
Baking sheet, aluminum foil, bread knife, small bowl
Loaf of your favorite french bread
1⁄2 cup margarine or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (remember margarine has more water in it)
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄2 cup chopped parsley
4 cloves fresh garlic or 4 Tablespoons pre-minced garlic
(Some folks also like to add 1⁄2 cup grated parmesan cheese to this mixture. This is very good.)
OVEN – Preheat 325
LET’S GET STARTED
With bread knife, slice loaf down center, lengthwise (horizontally to counter). Open bread, insides up.
In small bowl, combine softened margarine/butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic, pinch of salt (and parmesan, if you like it.)
Spread butter mix onto insides of bread. Put bread back together, wrap well in foil. Place bottom-up on baking sheet. Heat 10 minutes. Turn top-side up, heat another 10-15 minutes. (If you like your bread crunchier, peel back the foil when you turn it top-side up.
Remove from oven onto cutting board, slice across for serving in bread basket. Cover with clean kitchen towel, to help keep it warm (if it lasts that long.)
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