Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cajun Style Red Beans

Jim DeRosa has asked me for the method/recipe for my version of Cajun style red beans which, in NOLA is always served on Monday and always over white rice.

Let me begin by saying that if you are not in New Orleans or Louisiana then finding the proper ingredients for 'real' red beans is going to be tough. Finding good andouille sausage and tasso ham or pickled pork is probably going to be impossible. Since I am in Atlanta I have to make do with what I have and can get locally so while this recipe is very good and very close, it is not real Cajun red beans only a fine substitute. You can order the real deal from Louisiana at and it is the real deal and very good.

You'll need:
1 pound small red beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and checked for stones and bad beans, soaked overnight in salted water.
4 slices smoked bacon , chopped fine(substitutes for the tasso ham)
The Cajun trinity which is:
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped fine ( 1 small pepper) (I also like poblano peppers for this dish as well and it brings a small amount of heat to the party)
1/2 cup celery , chopped fine

3 cloves garlic , minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika ( I use the sweet)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme ( you can use dry but back off to 1/2 tsp)
1 bay leaf
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups water and maybe a little more
1 Tsp red wine vinegar

8 ounces andouille sausage cut into 1/4-inch slices( I cut sausage in half and then in 1/4 inch bits as you want the sausage about the same size as the beans) (Whole Foods makes it in house and they also carry Wellshire Farm which is not too bad. You can order it online from Jacob's)

First the beans. The day before you are ready to cook the beans you need to soak them. A lot of people use kidney beans for their red beans but you should use the small red bean. I can get them at Kroger(house brand) and they are packaged by Goya as well. They are labeled small red bean(Frijoles Rojos Pequenos). Kidney beans don't work as they get too pasty and not creamy.
Soak the beans overnight(at least 8 hours) in 2 1/2 quarts of water and two Tbsp of Kosher salt. Adding salt to water helps the beans keep their skins intact during cooking and it also gets the salt into the bean where it belongs. After the soak you need to drain and rinse them well.

In a large pot (Dutch oven) cook the bacon pieces until it is brown and then add the trinity (peppers, celery and onion) and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add all of the seasoning and herbs, the chicken stock, water and beans. Bring to a nice simmer and cover. Cook over low heat for about an hour and a half. Add the sausage bits and the vinegar(they use pickled pork in real Cajun red beans and the vinegar brings a little acid to the party and brightens the flavor. I use the Whole Foods andouille which is raw so I brown it before I add it to the beans. If your is fully cooked then you can just add it now. Cook with the sausage in it for another 30 or 45 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the beans are nice and creamy but not broken up. You might have to add a little more water as you go if the beans get too dry or thick...use your judgement but I don't like my beans too watery. I like to be able to just barely see the beans in the pot which means only about a 1/4 inch of liquid above the beans. You can overcook beans! You don't want them mushy.

Serve over white or brown rice or just by itself as a soup. It's good over fresh cornbread as well. If you want to be a real Cajun then a few dashes of Tabasco is in order as well.

Note: If you do have access to Tasso ham then use it instead of the bacon. If you just can't get andouille sausage then kielbasa can substitute but....

Update: I added a half hour to the first phase of cooking based on my experience yesterday with my pot of beans. It all depends on how old your beans are and how long you soak them. You just have to use your own judgment and how you like your beans. I like mine with a little texture and not too much liquid.

No comments: