Something tells me we’re not the only ones who get excited over beans and rice. Do you? Rarely a week goes by that we don’t have beans of some sort or another, and my mother’s chili beans with rice are a staple around here. I found a recipe in our local grocery store circular for a Cajun red beans and rice using smoked pork shanks. (Ham Shanks) Given the current love affair with all things pork, smoked, and southern, I couldn’t wait to make it. Traditional Louisiana red beans and rice also uses Andouille sausage which I did not add, (I used smoked sausage) but you could if you wanted. There was plenty of flavor, and plenty of meat with the smoked shanks.
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 2 hours | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings
1 pound of dried red kidney beans
1/2 pound of bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste, optional
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon of canola oil
1 package (14 oz.) smoked sausage or Andouille sausage(very spicy), ham bone, ham hocks, hamchunks, or any combination
2 quarts of water
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, optional
Kosher salt to taste, if needed – BUT ONLY AT THE END!
Hot, cooked rice
Sliced green onion, for garnish, optional
Hot sauce, for the table
Rinse and sort beans and place into a deep pot, adding water to cover beans plus about an inch or so. Discard any malformed or floating beans.
Do not add any seasonings or salt! Bring to a boil; boil for 5 minutes uncovered, turn off heat, cover and let soak for one hour. Drain and set aside in a large pot.In a separate skillet, cook the bacon until lightly cooked and still limp. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery to the bacon and sauté the veggies until tender. Add the garlic, black and red pepper, basil and bay leaf into the vegetable mixture and let seasoning meld with the veggies for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the bacon, veggie & seasoning mixture to the pot of beans. Meanwhile slice sausage in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch chunks. Add oil to skillet you used for the veggies and lightly brown the sausage. Transfer to the bean pot. If you have any leftover ham chunks, cut those up too, brown them and add them in.
Add 2 quarts of fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cooked uncovered for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until beans are tender and slightly thickened. When beans are just about done, slide in a half stick of butter. The butter adds richness to the beans and makes them just super delish, but is totally optional if you want to leave it out. They are good without it. If you need to thicken them up more, just remove about a cup of the beans and mash them with a fork, returning them to the pot. Serve over hot, cooked rice and garnish with sliced green onion, if desired. Pass hot sauce at the table.
Note: Do not add any salt until the end, and then only if it needs it. There is some salt present from all the meats involved, so taste and adjust your seasonings toward the end of cooking, adding salt here if needed. I very often find that the pot needs no additional salt at all. Taste, add salt if needed, taste again and adjust seasoning as needed.