Sunday, January 1, 2012

Red Beans

Happy New Year's Day!

I love that we got invited to a potluck brunch for New Year's Day. Eating with friends is not only a good way to spend some time (and calories) but also portends a great year.

My offering was red beans and rice. It's simple, delicious, healthy, and economical. What more could you want?

This looks like a long recipe, but notice that it's really just beans, ham bone, chopped veggies, and spices.

Red Beans (and rice)
- from Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, by Paul Prudhomme

1/2 pound dry red kidney beans
water to cover all
3 lbs small ham hocks
1 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green peppers
3 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon garlic poder
3/4 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Throw it all together in a big pot and cook for at least half a day. Add water as necessary, depending on how thick you like it.

Serve with rice, especially if it's hot and your guests like it mild, or if you need to stretch the quantity.

Notes and modifications:

This doubles easily, and freezes and reheats well.

I didn't get any special "ham hocks", and didn't make sure I had 3 lbs of it either. I just used the bone left over from the Christmas ham. It was fine.

I've halved the pepper and Tabasco sauce from the original recipe. YMMV, depending on your tastes and how fresh your spices are. Remember, taste as you go and give the pepper time to expand to its' full flavor. You can always add spice, but once it's in all you can do is pour the mess over more rice if it's too spicy.

In the book the recipe actually has instructions about such frivolities as soaking the beans, cooking the meat separately, taking out the bones, etc. I'm not a patient cook. Soaking the beans speeds the cooking time, but I've never noticed the mythical decrease in flatulence (commonly called farts, or toots, at my house). Eat beans regularly, as your digestive system adjusts the toots will decrease (or maybe you'll just cease to notice them - shrug). Cooking the beans from the start with all the good stuff increases their flavor and nutritional content, and you want that nice meld of flavors that cooking for half a day gives. I also figure my people are quite capable of fishing out bay leaves and bones as necessary.

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