Work smarter and use your leftover ham bones to create this flavorful New Orleans classic.
Red beans and rice is a traditional New Orleans dish which is typically served on a Monday. This seemingly random day actually has two logical reasons behind it – first, Sunday was laundry day so there would be lots of time to soak the beans before cooking. Second, grand meaty meals (like a roast ham) were most commonly consumed for Sunday lunch, which would leave you with leftover trimmings and bones.
If you don’t have a ham bone to spare, don’t fret! You can still make this recipe using pork bones or smoked ham hocks. And, if I’m being completely honest, the Andouille adds a ton of smokey pork flavor, so in a pinch you could just default to leaving out the bone altogether.
Though red beans and rice is a simple dish, it’s pretty contentious in terms of texture. It’s often described as ‘creamy’, though there’s no added cream at all. Instead, the creaminess comes from the beans as they break down during cooking. You can also speed this along by using an immersion blender to whiz it up to desired consistency. But – some folks prefer their red beans nearly to the texture of refried beans, while others prefer a more intact bean with a stew-like consistency. You can experiment to find your favorite texture, just make sure those beans are tender!
A note on the ingredients: red beans are not the same as kidney beans – they are smaller. If you can’t find them in your local grocery, you can purchase them online.
Start by soaking the beans overnight. Place them in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of the salt, and then cover them with about 2 inches of water.
Drain and rinse the beans, set aside. In a large heavy based pot, heat the lard or oil over medium high heat. Add the andouille sausage pieces, and cook until lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Add the chopped celery, onion and bell pepper, cook a further 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are softened, stirring frequently.
Add the crushed garlic, thyme, cayenne, remaining salt, and cajun seasoning. Stir to combine, then add the beans back to the mix. Add enough of the water to cover the beans by at least an inch. Nestle the hambone in the middle, then add the bay leaves.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook the beans for 1.5-2 hours until the beans are soft and the broth has turned “creamy”. Discard the ham bone and bay leaves. Taste, and add more salt if desired.
If the beans are not yet creamy enough, you can either continue to cook them gently until they break down, or use an immersion blender to roughly blend the mixture in pulses.
Serve the beans over the white rice – I recommend optional chopped scallions or crushed cracklins to garnish.
Red beans are not the same as kidney beans – they are smaller. If you can’t find them in your local grocery, you can purchase them online.