It’s true that I’ve made red beans on Wednesdays, Fridays, and other heretical times of the week. So bet it. Calendrical orthodoxy is not one of my virtues. But tonight, a large cast iron pot of red beans and another of South Louisiana medium grain rice will grace our table for dinner. There will be sausage and hot sauce as well.
Below are two recipes: one from Camellia, the go-to brand found in nearly every New Orleans grocery store, and one the way I (more or less) do it. More-or-less because I tend to eyeball ingredients rather than measure them in neat teaspoons and ounces, so the taste is always familiar, but rarely exactly the same. I like mine more aggressively seasoned than the company’s recipe, but not so much that I obscure the taste of the beans themselves.
Red Beans Rowley Style
1 lb red kidney beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 lb heavily-smoked andouille sausage*, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 handful (less than 1 cup) celery, diced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp onion granules
½ tsp hot chile powder (cayenne, Aleppo, or pasilla de Oaxaca)
2 bay leaves
Preheat a large Dutch oven, add a splash of oil, and add the andouille. Brown the sausage and set it aside. Add a bit more oil, then sauté the sofrito ingredients until limp. Add the soaked beans and the browned sausage, all of the seasonings and enough water to cover by 1-2 inches. Bring the pot to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring now and then, until the beans are soft and creamy, but still hold their shape. This will take an hour and a half to two hours. Something like that. Serve over hot cooked white rice and toss on a grilled or sauteed pork sausage if the feeling grips you.
The recipe that appears on bags of Camellia red beans is a stalwart washday recipe, a little more streamlined than my version.
Camellia's Famous New Orleans Style Red Beans
1 lb Camellia Brand Red (Kidney) Beans
1/2 lb ham or seasoning meat
8-10 cups water
1 onion, chopped
1 toe garlic, chopped
2 Tbs celery, chopped
2 Tbs parsley, chopped
1 large bay leaf
Salt to taste
Rinse and sort beans. Cover beans with water and start to cook over low fire. Render meat in skillet, remove and set aside. In skillet, sauté onion, garlic, parsley and celery in meat drippings. Add meat, bay leaf, salt and pepper to beans. Boil gently, stirring occasionally for about 1-1/2 hours, or until tender. Add water while cooking if necessary. Serve with long grain rice.
Goes well with:
- In her book Gumbo Tales, Sara Roahen devoted an entire chapter to red beans and, specifically, to New Orleans author and raconteur Pableaux Johnson who makes something of a fuss about them. Johnson (whose red beans I’ve had at a great big table filled with guests) offers yet another version with canned red beans. Check out his recipe at Red Beans Roadshow.
- When I'm in South Louisiana, I often hit the town of LaPlace, about a half hour west of the New Orleans Airport, to load up on heavily smoked andouille sausage. If you can't get there yourself, Jacob's will ship. cajunsausage.com.
- I am a Meat Wagon — a story about getting stopped smuggling andouille after a trip to LaPlace.