Happy Mardi Gras!: Red Beans and Rice
This coming Tuesday is Fat Tuesday, the culmination of weeks of Mardi Gras celebrations all over the South. From Mobile to New Orleans to Galveston and everywhere in between, Fat Tuesday officially caps off the debauchery that is Mardi Gras season, leading us right into Ash Wednesday and the more austere season of Lent. In other words, eat the king cake now.
While we’re not staying up all night to catch the 8 a.m. Zulu parade on St. Charles, we have always marked Fat Tuesday in our house with Mardi Gras music, beads, king cake and red beans and rice. Even if nobody remembered when they left the house that it was Fat Tuesday, they know when they come home and smell the red beans cooking.
I know it seems like an ordeal to make red beans. It’s not. On the front end, you’ll be chopping some andouille sausage and a few veggies. But then you get to basically throw everything together in one pot and let it all come together on its own. Which gives you plenty of time to pull out the Mardi Gras beads and turn on the Mardi Gras playlist. Because we might as well celebrate every chance we get.
Laissez le bon temps rouler.
1 pound red beans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
12 – 16 ounces andouille sausage, chopped or sliced into rounds
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (like Tony Chachere’s)
Chicken stock or water
3 cups cooked white or brown rice
3 green onions, chopped
Rinse the beans and put them in a large, heavy soup pot. Cover them with water and stir in the baking soda. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain the beans. (Alternatively, you can soak the beans in water overnight.)
In the same soup pot, sauté the onion, bell pepper, celery and spices through the thyme over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent. Add the bay leaves, garlic and sausage, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often to be sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Add the beans and Cajun seasoning, then add chicken stock or water to cover it all by about 2 inches. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let the beans simmer, uncovered for about 2 hours. Occasionally stir the beans so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. You may need to add more water or stock so that the beans are always covered by about an inch or so of liquid. Continue cooking until the beans begin to break up when you stir them.
Test for salt and pepper. Serve the red beans in bowls over the rice, and garnish with chopped green onions.
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