Fat Tuesday? I was fat on Monday, too, does that count? Does it mean I have double the parades, more necklaces thrown my way, is my costume made of more red beans????
Even though Mardi Gras embraces many different traditional Cajun-Creole dishes AND even though we can't go to the creek running through the back forty for shrimp, we can grow some of the ingredients for these savory and sweet dishes.
In the world of fast food and fast food prep, many women have stopped cooking with dried legumes. It's a shame, really, because they are so darn good for you. My problem was I could never remember to start them soaking the night before. Then, I found it was perhaps better to just boil them for an hour before I was ready to start my recipe and I'm back in the legume recipe game.
When the sugar plantation owners in Haiti fled to Louisiana (another French holding), they brought red beans with them. Their Red Beans and Rice recipe, created in the French Quarter is still one of their most popular recipes.
To plant red kidney beans your soil pH should be 6.0. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep, about 6 inches apart, in rows 18 inches apart. They must have room on either side for maximum production. Plant as early as possible after all danger of frost has past. Avoid overhead watering and do not handle plants when they are wet. Most germinate in about 90-100 days. Wait till the pods are straw colored, then pull the plant up and hang to dry. When dry, shell pods individually or bash plants back and forth in a bag or pillowcase. Store clean dry beans in a sealed dry container. Old canning jars work well.
The beans are considered in the "dry" category - (Phaseolus vulgaris).
Following is Chef John Besh's Red Beans and Rice recipe. Southern Louisiana raised, Chef Besh is owner of 7 restaurants - that and he's certainly holds the "most hunky chef" title!
2 Onions - diced
1 Green bell pepper - seeded and diced
1 Stalk celery - diced
2 T Rendered bacon fat
1# Dried Red Kidney beans
2 Smoked ham hocks
3 Bay leaves
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
3 Green onions - chopped
Freshly ground pepper
3 C Cooked white rice
Sweat the onions, bell peppers and celery in the rendered bacon fat in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Once the onions become translucent, add the kidney beans, ham hocks, bay leaves and cayenne, then add water to cover all by two inches.
Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and allow the beans to simmer slowly for 2 hours. Periodically stir the beans to make sure that they don't scorch on the bottom of the pot, adding water if necessary, always keeping the beans covered by an inch or more of water.
Continue cooking beans until they are creamy and beginning to fall apart when they're stirred. Remove the ham hock meat from the bones, roughly chop it and add it back to the pot of beans. Stir in the green onions and season with salt, black pepper and Tabasco. Serve with a side of white rice. Some add a side order of sausage.
Makes 6 servings.
The good news: 443 calories per serving - 18 g fiber, 24 g protein
Paying for flavor: 9 g fat, 23 mg cholesterol, and 234 mg sodium.
Someone just told Rex there's a bowl of red beans down the street with his name on it!