In many way, the Creoles of New Orleans may be the most quintessentially American society of all, the original American fusion.
Comprised of the descendants of the French and Spanish who were born in Louisiana, it later came to include all races and cultures that shared this general background. They were always a highly sophisticated people, many educated in Paris. The Creole opened the French Opera house in 1859, and the city of New Orleans became the opera capital of America. When we think of this meal, Red Beans and Rice, we imagine the steamy languid Sundays of the Creole world of New Orleans in the 1800’s, ham on the table and French wine to accompany that. And then on Monday, which was called Laundry Day throughout the South, they used the scraps and bones from Sunday’s ham feast, tossed in some Red Beans and seasoning, and as it bubbled for hours, the tedious laundry work was accomplished along with a savory lunch.
We much prefer to use smoked ham hocks than a ham bone because we like the creamy tasty red bean sauce to be thick and smoky, especially with the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves. Our version may lean a bit toward their country cousins, the Cajuns, and we may even throw in a pinch of file´ to thicken. But the Creole people who created this iconic meal knew that if you had just the right red beans, and you were not in a hurry, it would make a family gathering to remember. And when the family gathered, they told stories. Those stories became the family history.
1 pound red kidney beans, (we only use the Camellia brand New Orleans beans, which are smaller and tastier, and can be ordered on Amazon)
1/2 to 1 pound smoked andouille pork or chicken sausage, (we love the Jacob’s Original brand from Cajun Country, or you can use any great Italian smoked sausage
2 pounds smoked ham hocks or two large smoked turkey drumsticks
7 cups rich chicken broth (we boil down the bones of a whole roasted chicken to make our bone broth)
1 large onion, chopped into 3/4 inch chunks
2 cups celery, chopped into 3/4 inch chunks, (about 5 or 6 stalks)
2 cups red or green bell peppers, chopped into 3/4 inch chunks
3 tablespoon olive oil, extra virgin
4 or 5 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or rice vinegar, or white vinegar
5 bay leaves
2 teaspoons file’ powder (to thicken and to add a touch from Cajun cousins)
3 cups already prepared long grain white rice
2 teaspoons Cayenne pepper (if you like it hot), 1 teaspoon for most folks
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
2 teaspoons white pepper corns, ground
Soak the red beans overnight in a bowl with 2 inches of water above the beans, and then drain and discard the water. Cut deep gashes into the ham hocks, exposing the smoked meats and fats. Cut the sausage into 1/4 inch coins.
In a 14 inch fry pan (cast iron is best), use the olive oil on medium heat to lightly brown the sausages. Remove and set aside.
Add the onions, celery and bell peppers and saute´ on high temperature, stirring often, until the onions are opaque, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle on all the Seasoning, the bay leaves, the garlic and the vinegar, and stir well.
Add two cups of chicken broth to de-glaze the fry pan, and simmer for about 30 seconds.
Transfer the contents of this fry pan to a medium to large stock pot or very deep pan. Place the already gouged or fan-cut ham hock (or smoked turkey drumsticks) in the middle of the pan, on the bottom, and then add the red beans, sausage and remaining 5 cups of chicken broth.
Mix together, partially cover the stock pot, and simmer on low for 1 hour.
Using the tongs again, remove the ham hock, allow to cool and de-bone. Add the meat back to the stock pot, along with the file’ and simmer for another 15 minutes until the beans are creamy. Serve with rice.
Ca C’est Bon!