I have tried for years to make one particular dish. A bowl of read beans and rice as good as the one available at Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen. I know that sounds like it should be easy. But for those of you who aren’t blessed with proximity to a Popeye’s you may not know how good a lot of their food is. Especially their sides of red beans and rice which despite trying many times I have never been able to duplicate on my own.
Well the gauntlet was thrown when a Popeye’s opened up down the street. I’ve never had easy access to it before. So now, it’s something I have consistent access to rather than being a once on a while treat. I couldn’t have that. I needed to find a recipe for it that was better than fast food.
This was challenging though. I had tried a few recipes before and they were all missing something. Not enough bean liquid so it was dry and nasty. Bland flavors without enough meat and vegetables. Poor technique. Overall bad recipes that didn’t articulate this simple dish at all.
But I found out why. Many of those recipes came from cook books that were trying to reinvent the wheel. Starting from scratch with all sorts of over complex processes and expensive ingredients. Red beans and rice doesn’t need any of that to make it good and really doing stuff like that takes away from the experience.
So the recipe I tried actually comes from a cook book that aims to preserve the traditional southern recipes. It’s exactly how it’s made in the south because they went and talked to actual southerners. It’s the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I used their recipe nearly verbatim and got great results. I only made one change, I used bacon instead of ham hocks since I couldn’t buy them. If you substitute anything like that I recommend doing so to maintain the nice smokey, meaty flavors.
1 pound dried red beans
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound smoked pork sausage, preferably andoulle
2 medium onions, medium diced
5 ribs celery, medium diced
2 green bell pepper, medium diced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons Creole seasoning, such as Emerills Essense
8 cups chicken stock, or water
1 pound smoked ham hocks
3 bay leaves
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Hot Rice, for serving
Green onions , chopped for serving
2. Drain and rinse. Soaking speeds the cooking process and helps the beans break down.
3. Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot.
4. Add the sausage and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. (The small amount of butter will help keep the sausage from sticking until fat renders out.)
5. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and saute until tender.
6. Add the cayenned and Creole seasoning and stir.
7. Add the beans, chicken broth (or water), ham hocks, and bay leaves.
8. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
9. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
10. Be carefull to not scortch the beans-add more water if necessary.
11. Discard the bay leaves. Remove the meat from the ham hocks and discard the bones.
12. Return ham to the pot with the beans, and season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne.
13. Serve with hot rice and, if desired, with hot sauce, chopped green onions, and French bread.