Home Food DigiBites: It’s Wash Day – Time For Red Beans And Rice!

DigiBites: It’s Wash Day – Time For Red Beans And Rice!

Red Beans and Rice. Photo: Epicurean Exchange

Good day, News24/680.com food followers!  As I write this, I’m listening to my Dice of Dixieland Pandora Radio and getting ready for Mardi Gras next week!

Chef Charlie

In preparation for our tour of NOLA March 1 – 7, we have been cooking up a Cajun – Creole storm over here at Epicurean Exchange!  Our 2021 tour is scheduled for March 1 – 8, 2021 and we are booking now.

We’ve had a series of New Orleans cooking classes here lately. Our next two sessions will be on Mardi Gras, Tuesday, February 25 at 10:30 AM and Thursday, February 27 at 6:30 PM at the Epicurean Exchange Kitchen in Orinda. Contact Chef Charlie directly to register.  Menu: Sazerac Cocktails, Shrimp and Okra Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Southern Braised Collard Greens and Pecan Bread Pudding with Butter – Bourbon Sauce.

Sazerac Cocktail (photo from the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel where this drink originates)

Red Beans and Rice is commonly served on Mondays and traditionally prepared on Sunday. The BEST Gumbo recipe will follow here later this week (probably Thursday) ahead of Mardi Gras on Tuesday, February 25. Back story: I had this set to send out on Sunday, but with the wind, the power went out and now it’s Monday. Oh well, you just have to start a little late!

Red Beans and Rice Mondays – Why Mondays?:

According to National Geographic Society Blog author, Caroline Gerdes, “To the rest of the country, red beans and rice is a New Orleans tradition. In New Orleans, it is a Monday tradition. Growing up in Louisiana, I remember seeing Monday specials for red beans and hearing people say they wanted the dish solely because it was Monday. Red beans on Monday was a generally accepted fact. It wasn’t until recently that I stopped and thought, “Why Monday?”

The magic ingredient.

The answer came out in the wash: Before washing machines, women in New Orleans would do laundry by hand — using a crank and wringer, sometimes boiling the clothes. And on laundry day, they needed to prepare a dinner that didn’t need a lot of TLC. Thus the tradition of making red beans on washday, Monday. My aunt once described the facility of cooking the soft, spicy beans by explaining that they cook themselves when left on a simmer.

I know this practice may sound like a myth. But, in my 20 some interviews with Ninth Ward residents, the majority has recalled making, eating or smelling red beans on a Monday. So there you go.

Sourcing Local Ingredients:
Red Kidney Beans: available in bulk at Whole Foods

Ham Hock or Shank or Smoked Turkey Leg (for non-pork eaters) Looking for a smokey flavor to the beans. These products are available in the cured meats (bacon) section at Whole Foods

Spices – if your thyme, sage, white, black and cayenne pepper are more then 6 months old – buy fresh for the recipe – you’ll be glad you did! For the black and white peppers, buy whole and grind yourself in a spice (coffee) grinder.

Why Dried Beans? Dried beans are inexpensive; keep indefinitely, and one can control the doneness of the beans. Canned beans, although convenient, are usually too soft already out of the can. Using dried beans also allows them to be well-flavored during the soaking and cooking process. The problem, remembering to soak them before use. Read on…
Why Soak Beans? Soaking beans before cooking removes sugars that contribute to “digestive issues.” It also reduces cooking time AND you can then cook them to your desired doneness. This recipe recommends soaking for 8 hours in the refrigerator. If you don’t remember “overnight,” soaking for 2 hours is sufficient. Use the bean to water ratio suggested in the recipe to have enough liquid to actually soak and cook the beans.

Red Beans and Rice

1-pound dry dark red kidney beans

2 quarts water

1 ham hock (shank), about ½ pound

1 bay leaf

¼ cup canola oil

1 1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Kosher salt, to taste

•     Rinse and sort the beans. Place in a large pot and soak for at least 8 hours.

•     Place the pot over medium heat, add the ham hock and bay leaf; bring to a boil and reduce to low simmer.
•     In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the oil. Once heated, add the onion, bell pepper and celery. Sauté until soft, than add the garlic, herbs and peppers. Cook for 2 minutes, add then add to the simmering beans. •     Continue cooking the beans until tender, adding more liquid, if necessary, to reach desired consistency. This can take 1 – 1/2 hours. Season to taste with kosher salt. •     Remove about 1/2 cup of the beans and mashed them with a fork, then mix back to the pot. Simmer another 10 minutes. •     Serve over white rice.

Serves 6

Inspired by The Gumbo Cookbook

Getting into the Mardi Gras spirit at the Epicurean Exchange kitchen, Orinda.

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