Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Authentic New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

In 2009 a friend and I made a road-trip to New Orleans in my car.  The drive was a quick 12 hours, allowing us to arrive around 7pm on a Sunday.  We decided to stay with my cousin while we were down there-they lived just East of the French Quarter, a quick 10 minute walk from the heart of the city.

French Quarter
Her 5-room shotgun had plenty of room for us all to stay, yet we congregated outside in the courtyard behind the house.  The fence was surrounded by lush plants and in the middle there was a trickling fountain.  The scene was serene and while it was late June, the heat was just a reminder that we were in the South.  Patio tables and chairs made a nice circle for us to catch up, drink from our pony-neck beers we purchased from a neighborhood grocer and smoke cigarettes.  People would stop-by and visit, drink in hand-often a reusable plastic cup, but if you had no drink or no cup-a stack of travelers had a permanent residence on the kitchen counter.

One night, a local musician, JD, came by the house for a drink and a visit.  He played the guitar for a time and told us stories about growing up in NOLA.  With him was a book that was recently published on Post-Katrina musicians and how the music scene had changed since the hurricane.  JD was interviewed and photographed for the book. 

I quickly go used to the NOLA way of life, although I never acclimated to NOLA-time (a two-hour delay)-5 days wasn't enough to take the high-strung from this Northerner.  But still, I loved how small this city felt. 
Drinking rose in the courtyard
How the people here still would 'stop-by' for a visit and a cold refreshment.  How the city is defined by the people and the people's credo is 'Be nice or leave' (I still regret not buying a Dr. Bob sign in the quarter).  I loved walking and taking bikes almost anywhere you needed to go.  Slowing down and enjoying.  When I came home, my friend and I took a serious look at our way of life.  He got a bicycle and I left my corporate job for something walking-distance.  We both wanted to bring NOLA back with us.  We wanted to continue to savor our moments of life.

I will say, I cycle between savoring and disregarding moments.  Food has always been, for me, moments of forced savoring.  The process is as rewarding as the result.  Red Beans and Rice is a great recipe to let you savor each moment.  In NOLA, its the special in almost every restaurant as Mondays were traditionally laundry days.  Red beans, was a fairly cheap dish and made a lot of food-perfect for large families.  It also takes about 4 hours to cook.  Since it requires some babysitting, its easy to get distracted with laundry for awhile and go back to check it.

This recipe was given to me on my trip by a born-and-raised NOLA man.  He made it each week and this was the first time he had ever written it down.

Red Beans & Rice
Serves 8-10

1 lb. Taso (smoked pork)
1 lb. Andouille sausage
1 lb. red kidney beans (dry beans)
2 med yellow onions - chopped
6 toes garlic - minced
3 celery sticks - chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley - chopped
5 bay leaves
1 Tblsp vinegar
Salt, pepper & cayenne

Wash beans and put in a mid-sized pot.  Add water 1/3 from top.  Add sausage and Taso.  Turn heat to boil.  Add everything else and let boil 1 hour with top off, stirring ever 20 minutes.

After 1 1/2 hour, you may need to add some water.  Put top on and cook another 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, cook it with the top off until it thickens up (probably another 30min+).

Cook rice on a separate burner.

Serve over rice.

Drinking a beer in a grocery store-my favorite photo from the trip!

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