New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

This is a decidedly grown-up version of red beans and rice – spicy and flavorful.  For a less spicy version, use ham or kielbasa instead of the more authentic andouille.  Like most bean dishes, this one tastes best if you cook up your own beans.  The cooking time of dried beans varies widely, depending on how old the beans are and the variety.  Anasazi beans cook quickly and do not require soaking beforehand.  Red beans are slower and benefit from an overnight soak in cold water prior to cooking. This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking. Serves six.

1 Tbs. olive oil
6 oz. fully cooked andouille or other spicy smoked sausage, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 medium celery stalks with leaves, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced
1 medium green or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 dried bay leaf
1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 C cooked Anasazi or red beans (see below)
Bean cooking liquid or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 cups rice of your choice
Hot pepper sauce, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the celery, scallions, bell pepper, onion, the bay leaf, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the cooked beans and ½ C liquid, reserving more as needed. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer very gently 15 minutes to meld flavors, adding liquid as necessary to keep beans moist but not soupy.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a heavy-duty 3-quart saucepan over high heat. Add the rice and 1-1/2 tsp. salt, stir once, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes

Discard the bay leaf from the beans, stir in the parsley, and season to taste with salt and hot pepper sauce. Serve the beans over the rice, with the hot pepper sauce and pickled jalapeños with their liquid on the side.

COOKING THE BEANS: You may use canned beans, drain but do not rinse.  Two cans will yield slightly less than four coups. Cooked dried beans produce better flavor and you can control the tenderness of the beans better. One pound will yield eight cups of cooked beans. To cook anasazi beans, simply place dried beans in water to cover, by about ½ inch; add three garlic cloves, ½ t each salt and pepper. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook approximately 60 minutes until beans are soft but not mushy.  Let them cool in the cooking liquid. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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