Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy Mardi Gras! Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice Recipe

Woke up to lots of snow and ice for our Mardi Gras, and all I wanted was some warm red beans and rice.  I've been craving some New Orleans lately -- it really is a fantastic place to go and relax and have fun and blow off whatever is troubling you.  But since my schedule won't really work for a long weekend at the moment, I thought I'd bring the New Orleans to us.

Thanksfully, I got to the store yesterday before the snowstorm hit us, and we have the provisions on hand.

Sure, I'm going against tradition by serving it on a Saturday instead of the traditional Monday, when home cooks in New Orleans used to use the bone from the Sunday dinner ham to flavor the beans as they cooked slowly on the back of the stove at a simmer all day on Monday.  Waste not, want not, right?  Especially when it is wash day and you needed a dish that could cook without you having to watch it constantly.

But serving something this yummy on a nontraditional day is not really a worry.  My dilemma?

My old recipe, which I love dearly, was snagged from the food section of the Times-Picayune, and is one that I've made a bazillion times in my crockpot.  But the amount of butter called for is no longer one I'm willing to use, so I've searched for something with good flavor that won't be so unhealthy for my system.

So I've taken cues from another recipe that I found in the Times-Picayune and from a Paul Prudhomme recipe from his wonderful cookbook "A Fork In The Road."

Here's the recipe I've used:

Slow Cooker Red Beans And Rice

1 pound dried red kidney beans, picked over and rinsed

1 ham hock

Seasoning Mix:
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. cubed ham
2 andouille sausages, cubed small
2 small onions, chopped fine
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
6 cups very hot tap water
hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
cooked hot brown rice

Rinse the dried beans well and place them in a pot.  Cover with plenty of cold water and soak, covered with a lid, overnight.  Beans will swell to double in size and be ready to cook the next day.

Drain beans well the next morning and give then a quick rinse.  Place in bottom of slow cooker along with ham hock.  Mix together spices in seasoning mix.  Heat olive oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add cubed ham and sausage, onions, celery, and garlic, along with spice mix and bay leaf, mixing all of it well together to combine flavors.  Reduce heat to medium, and stir constantly as the mixture cooks, taking care not to burn anything but cooking it long enough to allow the onions to soften and begin to turn a golden brown (to get a caramelized taste).  Scrape everything into the slow cooker.

Use 1 cup of hot water to deglaze the skillet, taking care to scrape up any browned bits into the hot water as you boil it -- that's great flavor and you don't want to miss it.  Pour it into the slow cooker along with the other 5 cups of hot water.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 9 hours, or until beans are really, really tender.  Remove the ham hock once the beans are fully cooked.  Taste the beans first, then add salt and pepper to taste if you need it.

Serve at the table with hot sauce, hot cooked brown rice, and some chopped green onion tops if you like.  Seriously yummy stuff. 

After soaking my red kidney beans overnight, I've gotten things started this morning and it is now all bubbling away in my crockpot on the counter and smells like heaven even this early in the day. That bodes well for this evening's feasting. I'll let you know.

For more recipes from New Orleans, check out my compilation here.  The barbeque shrimp recipe is especially tasty if you can find some fresh shrimp at the store.  If not, get some flash frozen ones and thaw under cold water for a bit.

(Photo via cookbookman17.)

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