Red Beans and Rice II

I buy groceries with absolutely the best intentions. I had bought an andouille sausage over the weekend with plans to do a low country boil, but as is life, those plans changed. So this morning as I looked through my fridge, I found that well-intentioned andouille and realized I could freeze it to save for another day (potentially getting lost in the recesses of my freezer which desperately need to be cleaned) or use it. Problem was, I had zero desire to run to the grocery store and the shrimp I had purchased had already been usurped to make a pan of Paella. What was I to do? I searched my pantry, found dried beans, and realized it's been at least a year since I last made Red Beans and Rice. Inspiration! I was bummed to realize I was missing a ham hock, but the craving would not subside, so I set myself to the task.

I immediately pulled out the dried beans (I had a small amount of cranberry and kidney beans in my pantry) and put them in water to soak. This gave me a little bit of anxiety - I usually soak beans overnight, would a couple of hours actually work? I searched online and found that, surprisingly, soaking your beans is considered passé. All the cool kids were just popping dried beans in their pots and adding extra cooking time. Fears alleviated, I charged ahead. In the end, the beans only got a 5 hour soak, but they cooked up well so I can't complain.

While I lamented not having a ham hock for this recipe, I did find a green bell pepper in my fridge. My previous versions of red beans and rice usually skipped the pepper portion of Holy Trinity, but since I was losing the smoky, porky flavor of the hock, I figured the added zing of a bell pepper might be a nice addition. Next time, I may use both.

Boozy Epicure's Red Beans and Rice Version 2

Olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 andouille sausage (6-8 oz) sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped (what can I say, I like celery)
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 tblsp tomato paste
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
a couple of sprigs fresh thyme
1 tblsp Old Bay Seasoning
hot sauce, to taste
salt/pepper, to taste
1/2 lb dried red beans, soaked overnight (or 1 can of kidney beans, by all means use canned beans if you like)
2 cups stock (1 would usually use chicken stock, but I had little containers of chicken and beef stock so I used 1 of each)
4 cups water

Serve alongside: cooked long grain white rice
Garnish with: chopped scallions and parsley

Start by browning your andouille slices in the olive oil. You don't need much oil, maybe a tablespoon or two, and you don't want the heat super high. You want to render some of the fat and start building fond for your veggies to deglaze. Once the sausage is browned, add the onions, peppers and celery with a pinch of salt. While these are cooking, you want to keep stirring and scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Once your veggies have softened, add your tomato paste and garlic. Cook for a minute longer, then add the bay leaf, thyme, Old Bay, hot sauce (I was out of cayenne pepper) and salt/pepper. Cook for a minute or two then add the drained beans (note, if you are using canned beans, do not add them yet!) stock and water. Your beans should be completely covered in liquid.

Bring the mixture to a boil then turn down to a simmer, allowing the mixture to cook until the beans are tender, roughly 2-3 hours. If you are using canned beans, use less water, let the mixture simmer 1 hour, then add your beans and allow them to cook 30 additional minutes.

Either way, once your beans are tender, squash about 1/4 of the beans to thicken the stew. I like to pull them out with a slotted spoon, mash them, then put them back, you can also just mash them with a spoon against the side of the pot. Remove the thyme and bay leaf. Check for seasoning (you may want more hot sauce) and add more chicken stock or water to get the consistency you like.

Serve over white rice, garnish with the chopped scallions and parsley, and enjoy. Leftovers freeze really well.

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