Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.
Red beans and rice is like the Old Faithful of southern cooking. Ever reliable and regularly featured on dinner tables across the south.
Originally a creole, not a cajun dish, red beans and rice was traditionally made on Mondays as a way to use up the bones and leftovers from Sunday dinner, which often featured ham. Red beans and rice has stood the test of time, and has situated itself at the very heart of southern cooking.
This recipe throws a little flavor and color curve, using red bells in place of the more commonly used green. I like the sweetness of red bells, and their sharp color also makes a nice addition.
With rice, this version makes about eight servings.
1 pound dry red beans, sorted, rinsed, soaked overnight and drained
2½ quarts chicken broth
½ quart of water, or so
1 pound ham, chopped into ½-inch cubes
½ pound cooked kielbasa or Polish sausage
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ cup onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red bell peppers, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
Steamed white rice
Rinse and drain the beans after soaking them overnight.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add onions, red bell peppers, celery, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and thyme, and sauté for about 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the sausage and bay leaves, and sauté for another 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the ham, beans, fresh garlic, and enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot.
Turn the heat up and get the pot boiling, then lower the heat to medium.
Keep it uncovered, and let it simmer for about 2 hours. Be sure to stir it from time to time, and to add more water if it starts to get dry.
Use a potato masher or a wooden spoon to mash about half of the beans and vegetables against the bottom or the side of the pot. If you mash them against the bottom, make sure to scrape the bottom well, so they don't stick to the bottom.
After you're done mashing, cook for another 90 minutes or so, or until the mixture becomes creamy and the beans are tender when tasted.
The whole time the beans are cooking, the mixture should never get too thick or dry. Be sure to add more water if you see it getting dry. The final result should be a bit soupy, but never watery.
Discard the bay leaves and serve over steamed white rice. Serve gluten-free cornbread on the side for a down-home meal.