Friday, May 8, 2009

Recipes: Red Beans and Rice Didn't Miss Her!

Today is a landmark day for us: we got our very first washer and dryer. It's not that we have never done laundry before, but our current house (alas, rented) did not come with a washer and dryer. There is a laundromat a block away, but, after about a month of two adults and a baby relying on an inconvenient laundering resource, our pile of less-important dirty laundry began to grow out of control.
The above picture is not an accurate representation of what our laundry room really looks like... oh, but what I'd give for it to be!

Now that I am a stay at home mom and budding entrepreneur, I idealize my new found laundry freedom with thoughts of house wife history. My maternal grandmother's family is from New Orleans (she was born there, her mother's ashes [in her classic irreverent style] were Fed Exed to the family crypt [one of two] there, and one of my uncles founded the Picayune, etc. Suffice it to say: they've got some roots there), and she has often told me bits of lore that have stuck with me like fairy tales. For instance, I remember this normal housewife schedule:

Monday: Wash Day
Tuesday: Ironing Day
Wednesday: Sewing Day
Thursday: Market Day
Friday: Cleaning Day
Saturday: Baking Day
Sunday: Day of Rest

With a few variations (some folks had a gardening day instead of a separate ironing day, or the days were not quite in this order), this is the way everyone kept house for more than a hundred years. There was logic behind this. Laundry was far and away the heaviest task a housewife faced, requiring a great deal of strength and fortitude to hand-wring clothes and carry big baskets of wet laundry to the clothesline from the basement washtubs. Monday was the day to do it, when you were still fresh and rested from Sunday. Tuesday's ironing followed Monday's wash. Mending and sewing on Wednesday made sense when you'd just been through the clothes and noticed what needed a button or a patch. And so on.

The children's song Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush outlines the chore system too, though there's no market day and two cleaning days in this scheme.

My grandmother also told me, and this seemed to be true for just about every socioeconomic group in New Orleans: Sunday you have ham for dinner, and Monday is always Red Beans and Rice, using Sunday's hambone.

Red Beans and Rice is a low maintenance, one pot recipe that is hard to screw up once you get the hang of it. Thus, it was (and is) a perfect dish for laundry day.
Here's a good recipe, but it's one of those things that you can play with, and cook to your taste.

Red Beans and Rice
  • 1 pound red kidney beans, dry
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 ribs celery, chopped
  • As much garlic as you like, minced (I like lots, 5 or 6 cloves)
  • 1 large smoked ham hock, 3/4 pound of Creole-style pickle meat (pickled pork), or 3/4 lb. smoked ham, diced, for seasoning
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds mild or hot smoked sausage or andouille, sliced on the bias
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • As many dashes Crystal hot sauce or Tabasco as you like, to taste
  • A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Creole seasoning blend, to taste; OR,
    • red pepper and black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh Creole hot sausage or chaurice, links or patties, grilled or pan-fried, one link or patty per person (optional)
  • Pickled onions (optional)
Soak the beans overnight, if possible. The next day, drain and put fresh water in the pot. (This helps reduce the, um, flatulence factor.) Bring the beans to a rolling boil. Make sure the beans are always covered by water, or they will discolor and get hard. Boil the beans for about 45 - 60 minutes, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain.

While the beans are boiling, sauté the Trinity (onions, celery, bell pepper) until the onions turn translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. After the beans are boiled and drained, add the sautéed vegetables to the beans, then add the ham hock (or ham or pickle meat), smoked sausage, seasonings, and just enough water to cover.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2 hours at least, preferably 3, until the whole thing gets nice and creamy. Adjust seasonings as you go along. Stir occasionally, making sure that it doesn't burn and/or stick to the bottom of the pot. (If the beans are old -- say, older than six months to a year -- they won't get creamy. Make sure the beans are reasonably fresh. If it's still not getting creamy, take 1 or 2 cups of beans out and mash them, then return them to the pot and stir.)

Serve generous scoops over hot white long-grain rice, with good French bread and good beer.

1 comment:

  1. This was one awesome post! I love the Housewife Schedule of yore. Mine's a bit different... Perhaps I'll have to post about it in the near future *wink*.



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