Austin has a surprisingly strong NOLA prominence. Saints t-shirts everywhere, plenty of transplants, the famous muffelatta and po’ boy sandwiches. It’s not exactly the same (I have yet to find a roast beef po’ boy) but love it just as much! I suppose the influence shouldn’t be so surprising considering we are only 7-ish hours away and we’re close enough to the coast for the most dominant New Orleans ingredients: fresh gulf oysters, gulf shrimp and even crawfish just about anytime in the season.
Red beans and rice is no exception. I see it commonly, all over menus from a range of establishments from New Orleans-themed dive bars to classy cajun restaurants. The only problem is, I find it difficult to pay for a meal that was historically created to use the cheapest, easiest ingredients. Using the bones from Sunday ham day, the ladies of the house could put on a pot of beans Monday morning and get started on their chores without having to tend to the stove.
I guess we mostly work out of the home at this point, and Monday is no longer washday, so give it a try any day of the week. You can use any kind of scrap ham bones from your local butcher, meat market, or even grocery store but I strongly prefer the smoked hocks with a bit of meat left on. They’re usually something like $1/lb.
So, with that, here is my recipe for red beans and rice, complete with the quintessential “holy trinity” of celery, onion, and green bell peppers. I’m sure many would argue it’s not Creole food without this combination.
For One Pound of Beans:
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
green bell peppers, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced, top leaves roughly chopped and reserved
2 jalapenos, finely diced
3 Bay leaves
1T granulated garlic
48oz. chicken stock
2 smoked ham hocks (app. 1.5lbs, combined)
1/2 cup chopped ham, Tasso ham, thick cut bacon, or combination, diced
A few shakes of a good, southern, vinegary hot sauce such as Texas Pete or Crystal
48oz. chicken stock (sub: veggie stock if you like)
1lb red beans (duh)
1 bunch green onion, sliced
In a medium stock pot, quickly brown bacon and/or ham on medium-high heat, then add butter slowly to heat but not brown. Add garlic, onion, bell peppers, celery and jalapeno, cooking until just soft and fragrant. Add beans, bay leaves and ham hocks and cover with chicken stock, stir, cover pot with lid. Once liquid is boiling, stir and continue adding stock or water a little at a time to keep the beans completely covered. Add hot sauce and granulated garlic, turn heat down to slow simmer and replace pot lid. Check and stir often until beans are softened.
Taste the cooking liquid often to test flavor before the beans are softened and add salt & pepper appropriately throughout cooking.
*Note: Instead of dull, bland white rice, I prefer to give it just a tiny pizzaz by cooking the grains in a liquid of half stock, half water, throw in a few bay leaves and some black pepper.