Red Beans and Rice

In the days before labor-saving appliances, Mondays used to be the traditional “wash day” of the week. In many southern homes, the housewife would put on a pot of red beans to cook all day, since the meal required little hands-on attention and the laundry was an all-day affair. The leftover ham-bone from the traditional Sunday night dinner provided the flavor for the red beans.

1 lb dried red beans, rinsed and sorted over
3 Tbsp bacon grease
1/4 Cup chopped ham
1-1/2 Cups chopped onion
3/4 Cup celery, chopped
3/4 Cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
3 Bay Leaves
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 1 Tbsp dried
2 tsp Thyme
1/2 lb smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise, then cut into 1″ pieces
1 lb smoked ham hocks
3 Tbsp minced garlic
10 Cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
4 Cups cooked white rice
1/4 Cup chopped green onions for garnish

Empty beans into a large pot and add enough cold water to cover the beans plus an extra 2 inches. Let soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Drain beans in a colander and set aside.

In a large heavy pot, heat the bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the chopped ham, onions, celery and bell peppers. Season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne, and saute, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 6 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, parsley, thyme, sausage, and ham hocks, and continue stirring, until the meat is browned, another 5 minutes or so. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the beans and stock [or water] to the sauteed ingredients, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the broth starting to thicken, about 2 hours.

Check the mixture occasionally. If the beans look as though they are becoming too dry, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.

Once the beans are tender and cooked through, remove the pan from the stove and thicken the “broth” by mashing some of the beans against the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon. Return the pot to the stove and resume cooking, uncovered, on very low heat.

Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.

Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.