This past week I started a new adventure. I'm teaching a Cajun/Creole cooking class to a group of 11 to 14 year olds at our homeschool co-op. One of my favorite parts of this class is that all BOYS signed up. That just tickles me; I mean, really, boys need to learn how to cook just as much as girls. They need to survive those college and bachelor years; and how many girls don't like a guy who can cook? Let's just say I'm doing this for all the future wives down the road. :)
Plus, when you cook recipes like this that involve things like ham hocks, they think it's cool. Boys just aren't as easily grossed out by odd foods.
So for the next 8 weeks, I'm hoping to get at least one weekly cajun/creole recipe posted. This week, we're starting with the classic Red Beans & Rice.
Here's what y'all need:
Red beans, sausage, bay leaf, onion, green bell pepper, celery, garlic, ham bone or ham hocks, cooked rice, and cajun seasoning.
First thing you need to do is rinse your beans, picking out any yucky ones.
Next, put them in your favorite pot with 8 cups of water. Bring that to a rolling boil, then pop on the lid and let it sit for an hour or two. Your beans will soften and expand.
While your beans are softening, chop up your "trinity". Onion, celery, and bell pepper are referred to as the "trinity" of cajun cooking. Most of your main dish recipes will include this tasty trio. And man does it make your house smell good!
Next, chop your sausage into half crescents. Andouille sausage is the traditional choice for this dish, but living up here in the Northwest, it can be harder to find and more expensive. I often use a beef smoked sausage instead with great results.
When your beans have finished soaking and plumping, drain them into a colander and toss your sausage into the pot. Give it a good saute until it's started to brown and some of the fat has rendered out into the pan. You'll use this in just a minute.
Take the sausage out of the pan and set it aside for later. You should probably taste a piece or three. Quality control and all. Throw your onion, celery, and bell pepper into the warm sausagy pan and saute until tender.
Add a bay leaf and the garlic and cook about one more minute. I so wish you could smell this right now.
After your veggies have softened and your garlic and bay leaf are incorporated, add the ham hocks, beans, and just enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches.
Please note, I did not forget the cajun seasoning. Usually adding seasonings at the beginning of the cooking process allows the flavors to meld, however, do NOT try to add your cajun seasoning at this point. It contains salt which will prevent the beans from fully cooking and you will end up with hard little pebbles instead of soft, tasty beans. Wait until later. Trust me.
Bring this to a boil and let slowly simmer for 2-3 hours. Stir it every now and then to keep the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
After 2-3 hours, the water should boil down, giving you a nice gravy for your red beans. Add the sausage and seasoning and remove the hocks and bay leaf. Allow this to cook for about 10 more minutes, and then serve over cooked rice.
Voila! Warm, hearty, tasty, down-home red beans and rice. We always serve this with cornbread and extra cajun seasoning at the table. The seasoning in the recipe makes a fairly mild flavored dish; you can add more at the table to turn up the heat a bit. Enjoy y'all!
Red Beans & Rice
1 pound dried red beans
1 pound sausage, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ham bone or 2 ham hocks
1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
In a large soup pot, place beans (rinsed & picked through) and 8 cups of water. Bring to a rolling boil. Take off of heat, cover and allow to sit for 1 to 2 hours. Drain beans.
In soup pot, cook sausage 3-4 minutes or until browned a bit. Remove from pan and set aside for later. Place onion, bell pepper, and celery in pan. Cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Add garlic and bay leaf; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add ham bone/hocks, beans, and enough water to cover beans by 2 inches. Bring just to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
After 2-3 hours and most of the water has cooked down, remove bone/hocks and bay leaf. Add sausage and cajun seasoning. Cook 10 more minutes.
Serve over rice with cornbread.