New Orleans could be one of my favorite cities. I have spent many weekends winding around the French Quarter listening to amazing live music and eating some of the best food in the country. After Hurricane Katrina, you could feel the heartbeat of the city as residents came together to restore the community I love. It is different now than it was before, but I would venture to say it is better. I have enjoyed many Jazz Fests and Mardis Gras, but now when I walk the streets there is a resilience among the residents and strength of community I did not sense before. Ultimately though, I go for the food. I love the artistic personalities this city attracts. The chefs that call New Orleans home are bold and unapologetic in their use of seasoning. Flavors are built in layers like the architecture of one of the old garden homes the city is famous for. The gumbo, the jambalaya, the red beans and rice- all dishes I long for when I leave. It has become a tradition in my house to have Seafood Gumbo on New Year’s Eve. I make a big pot of it to share with all of our friends who come in from out of town and it brings us all back to time spent together in one of the many hidden courtyards of New Orleans when we were younger and times were slightly less responsible.
In the spirit of remembering those times and wanting to share some of those big Louisiana flavors with my daughter, we embarked on making some traditional Red Beans and Rice. My husband was heading out of town for work and Liv and I decided a crockpot meal would be a good call for those busy week nights. I posed the red beans and rice idea to her and she was game. Liv and I have found a pretty good groove in the kitchen. I do the chopping and she does the measuring and mixing. This time in the kitchen also gives us a space to have some of those ordinary conversations that seem to be missing from our fast-paced life. We add to our family food tapestry every time we don our aprons. We took inspiration for this recipe from a recent Cooking Light feature on slow food. It ended up being one of our favorite crockpot meals and will be in heavy rotation as the weather turns crisper.
1 lb. dried kidney beans
1 tbsp. olivie oil
2 lbs. andouille sausage, sliced into 1 inch hunks
1 cup vidalia onion, rough chop
2 poblano peppers, seeded and rough chopped
3 stalks celery, quarter-mooned
1 red bell pepper, seeded and rough chopped
8 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bottle Turbo Dog (or other dark lager)
1 box chicken broth
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
5 bay leaves
1 tbsp. Melinda’s hot sauce (or your fave)
scallions for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
cooked Basmati rice (1/2 package goes one night for a family of four)
First you need to soak the beans overnight so plan some time for that. Put the kidney beans in a stockpot and cover with water a couple of inches above the beans. Cover and let set overnight. In the morning, drain the beans and pour some fresh water on top of them. Put them on the stove on high and bring them to boiling. Boil for 10 minutes and drain again. Now your beans are ready.
Now it is time to prep the other ingredients. Heat olive oil in a deep sauce pan to medium-high heat. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook until browned on all sides. Next add your onion, both peppers, celery and garlic. Allow the onions to sweat out and soften. Everything should getting fragrant. Add your beer. I like the Turbo Dog because it is a Louisiana beer and honors the birthplace of this dish. Cook down the beer some and allow it to degalze the pan- all the little bits will lift up and meld in with the rest of the ingredients.
Once you have the sausage mixture good to go, you are going to move to the crockpot. Put the skillet ingredients in the crockpot and then add the prepped beans, cayenne, bay leaves and Melinda’s. All of this is going to stew together for 8 hours on low. When it is finished, taste for salt and pepper needs. Serve over yummy Basmati rice and garnish with sliced scallions.
BTW– The Turbo Dog is not just great in the recipe. It also is a wonderful accompaniment for this hearty meal.
BTW2– I called for Melinda’s hot sauce and if you have not tried it, you are missing out. I found it years ago and have been a convert ever since. It is vegetable-based rather than vinegar-based like most hot sauces. The vegetable base gives a more even, round heat without that burning sensation that vinegar-based sauces can impart.