Cook's Illustrated (January/February 2010)
Tuesday is Mardi Gras! And although we're feeling a bit too old for the whole beads-and-Jello-shot version of the celebration, we think it's the perfect occasion to make these Red Beans and Rice.
With an overnight soak time for the beans and two hours of prep for the actual dish, you can't exactly call this recipe the "Big Easy." It's more like the "Big Moderately Difficult and Time-Consuming But Not Really All That Hard Once You Get Into It."
And it's the ideal dish to make should you find yourself confined to your home under 30 inches of snow.
Actually, you can "quick-brine" the beans if you want, meaning this dish can be ready in about three hours, most of which doesn't require your actual attention. So if you've got a little time, these Cajun Red Beans and Rice are a wonderful way to heat things up on a cold winter night.
The finished dish is absolutely delicious! The beans are soft and creamy, while the andouille sausage is spicy and hands-down amazing. In fact, if we were to make one change to this recipe, we would add a little more sausage.
The herbs and spices -- sweet paprika, cayenne, garlic, thyme -- do an excellent job of providing just the right amount of spiciness. And the addition of the red wine vinegar adds an excellent acidic note that really balances all the flavors. Oh, and even though the scallions were just a garnish, we actually thought they played an essential role in adding one final fresh note to the dish.
All in all, we just loved this meal. Its warm spiciness was the perfect thing on a snowy evening. And if you're used to red beans and rice from a red-and-white box -- as we were -- then these Cajun Red Beans and Rice are going to blow you away.
So cook up a batch of these beans, and laissez les bon temps rouler!
NOTE: If you are pressed for time you can "quick-brine" your beans. In step 1, combine the salt, water and beans in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and proceed with the recipe. If you can't find andouille sausage, substitute kielbasa. Tasso can be difficult to find, but if you use it, omit the bacon and paprika in step 2 and cook 4 ounces finely chopped tasso in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes, then proceed with the recipe. In order for the starch from the beans to thicken the cooking liquid, it is important to maintain a vigorous simmer in step 2. The beans can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To reheat, add enough water to the beans to thin them slightly.
1 pound small red beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
4 slices bacon (about 4 ounces), chopped fine (see note)
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
1 celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (see note)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Ground black pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 cups water
8 ounces andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices (see note)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
Basic White Rice (recipe follows)
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
Hot sauce (optional)
1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
2. Heat bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and almost fully rendered, 5 to 8 minutes. Add onion, green pepper, and celery; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, paprika, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans, broth, and water; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and vigorously simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are just soft and liquid begins to thicken, 45 to 60 minutes.
3. Stir in sausage and 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar and cook until liquid is thick and beans are fully tender and creamy, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and additional red wine vinegar. Serve over rice, sprinkling with scallions and passing hot sauce separately, if desired.
Basic White Rice
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or vegetable oil
3 cups water
1 teaspoon table salt
1. Place rice in colander or fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear. Place colander over bowl and set aside.
2. Heat butter or oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until grains become chalky and opaque, 1 to 3 minutes. Add water and salt, increase heat to high and bring to boil, swirling the pot to blend ingredients. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes. Off heat, remove lid and placer kitchen towel folded in half over saucepan; replace lid. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes; fluff with fork and serve.