14 January 2009

Focus





Back to food!

New Orleans has taken over my brain. I just finally finished reading Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen, which is a book all about New Orleans food. My auntie sent it to me before my trip, and I read a few chapters before I left and became obsessed with gumbo. I continued reading while I was there, and then when I got home. Every chapter is devoted to a different food that is a part of life in NOLA- gumbo, po'boys, sno cones, oysters, et cetera. I love this writer because she is a woman who only regrets not being able to eat MORE. She loves food, loves the stories behind food, and talks about blacking out because of a po' boy. A girl after my own heart, she is. If she had a chapter on barfing after overdosing on fried soft shell crab, well, I would have to see her birth certificate.
Anyway. I woke up early on Monday morning and read her chapter on red beans and rice. It turns out that this dish is a Monday tradition in New Orleans. This was fate as it was Monday and I was hungry. I was not going to ignore fate as long as it included ham hocks and andouille. We already had plans to make maple bourbon pecan pies for Pine State thanks to inspiration from all the BBQ stops we made on our trip, so when we went to the store for pecans we got all the fixings for red beans and rice too.
You are supposed to make them on Mondays with the hock from Sunday night's ham. Fortunately, Pine State sells amazing southern style country ham and it was down to the bone. We had to pretend we were following tradition, but at least we had the right ingredients. As we made the pies (come try one at Pine State, they turned out well- look at that crust!), the beans soaked and we started cooking.
Red beans and rice are made with any number of pork products. We chose andouille, ham, tasso, bacon grease and bone marrow. Kevin cracked that ham bone with a hammer so that the glorious marrow would seep into the beans, adding to the creamy meatiness. You can see in the first photo that it started out as a thin, soup like creation. You can still make out the holy trinity and the individual beans. Three hours later, the next photo, it has cooked down and the beans have opened up and thickened the stew, and the vegetables have disappeared. The smell alone was worth the effort. I have to say, I think we had great success. I know that I will hear back later that I forgot an ingredient or something, but I think I should just move to New Orleans and have people believe that I've always been cooking this way. I am including the recipe I ended up using, after reading many and creating a composite.

Red Beans and Rice

One lb. red beans
2 links of andouille
1/4 lb. tasso
1 large ham hock with cracked bone
3 tablespoons bacon grease
1 bell pepper
5 sticks celery
1 yellow onion
7 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 tablespoon cayenne
3 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon pimenton
chopped green onions and parsley for garnish
3 cups Long grain white rice

Soak beans over night or quick soak them in simmering water for an hour or so (I'm sure this is not recommend but if you are irresponsible like me then you can count on this step.). Drain the beans and put them in a pot of boiling stock and water with the ham hock and the spices. Meanwhile, saute your meats in the bacon grease. Add them to the soup when they are nice and brown and tasty smelling. Leave the juices and grease in the pan. Chop the pepper, onion and celery up (your holy trinity) and sweat them out in the same pan. Add this to the soup as well when they achieve the level of doneness that you prefer- we let the onions cook until clear, but the celery and peppers were still a little bit crunchy. Now just let this soup cook for as long as you can stand it. Two hours is the minimum but all day long is tradition. If you have to rush things, smear about a quarter of the beans against the side of the pot while cooking to open them up and thicken the soup.
And of course, during the last 45 minutes of simmering, cook up some long grain white rice. You serve the beans on top of however much rice you prefer, with chopped green onions and parsley (which we forgot) as a garnish. You are also supposed to serve french bread and butter with this dish and Abita beer. You can find this beer in Portland! This recipe serves many people. Maybe ten? Even after 4 of us ate our weight in it on Monday night, we will still be eating only red beans and rice for the next week and not complaining.

4 comments:

Chef E said...

Nope you go right ahead and copy, we all do it and end up making our own version...you are right, crispy edges is the best!

I like your blog and want to follow it...look forward to reading this stuff you have posted!

MikeTheWaiterDotCom said...

When you think about it, a good gumbo is a meal in itself--self contained and having all of the food groups!
Sometimes they get a little too spicy... but I always struggle through it!
peace, Mtw

the feeb said...

i like the pages new look!

dems da breaks said...

thank goodness you're finally sharing your recipes with us!