Beans and rice is such a simple, warming comfort food. The idea of it can seem sort of bland and unexciting, though.
But, one of the best things about traveling is the inspiration it can bring to your home-cooking. After my trip to New Orleans last month, I don’t think I can ever see beans and rice as bland again.
I had the dish twice while I was there; both recipes were different, and both were excellent.
In my rendition, most all of the ingredients were gotten locally: from the Granary Co-op and farmers market in Ortonville, Delmont Locker (SD), my own gardens, and another SE SD farmstead.
Nothing got from SD is unavailable here in Big Stone County–it’s just that I had those things on hand, so I used them.
The red beans were soaked throughout the day, rinsed, and put in the crockpot on low overnight to cook with fresh water, a couple of bay leaves, and some dried organic celery flakes.
[When you get dried beans in bulk, and you don’t know hold old they are, it’s better to be on the safe side with longer soaking and cooking. You might as well make a big batch of them and refrigerate or freeze some.]
The next day, I pulled out the Dutch oven and sautéed (in–yes–a tiny bit of lard) a whole sliced yellow onion, a diced green pepper, some red pepper flakes, and some more of the dried celery.
Once the vegetables were getting a little browned, I threw in about two tablespoons of cajun seasoning and three or four smashed and chopped cloves of garlic, stirred, then dumped in the red beans with their cooking water.
Then I placed a whole Delmont Locker German sausage on top (after I went spelunking through my jam-packed freezer to find it), pricked it with a fork, and let the simmering beans and vegetables cook it through and co-mingle their flavors.
Once the sausage was cooked through and the beans were thick in their sauce, I took out the sausage and sliced it into smaller pieces.
In a separate pot, I made some brown rice to go with it.
[I know white rice is traditional, but white rice is completely stripped of nutritive value and is not allowed in my house.]
And then I sat down and ate. And ate. And ate. I ended up with about three days’ worth of meals out of that one cooking session.
It was incredibly flavorful, but it didn’t end up quite as spicy as I’d like. That’s what homemade hot sauce is for!
I think that if I made it again, I would not use as much sausage, or maybe I would try it with a little lean ham.
In spite of what you might think about lard, using a little adds flavor and goes a very long way–you could even omit the meat entirely and just rely on that little bit of fat for traditional flavor.
Or you could make a very satisfying vegetarian or vegan version with no animal products whatsoever. Eat your conscience. Mine says locally and sustainably-raised animal products are good food when eaten in moderation.
Local ingredients: green pepper (Koopman’s–from the last farmers market of the season!), onion, sausage, garlic, lard, red pepper flakes, hot sauce.
I found organic red beans, brown rice, dried celery, and cajun seasoning at the Granary Co-op in Ortonville.