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  • Bettina Applewhite

New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

Red beans and rice is one of the many staple dishes in New Orleans. It's often used to start off the meal but this is hearty enough to be the main entree. Beans aren't known for a creamy texture but this becomes a creamy dish by making a gravy out of the beans. If you're looking for a low carb meal, this is not the one. The beans are a great source of protein and complex carbs and the added rice makes it more carbalicious!

New Orleans is a special place. I lived there during my dietetic internship. It was some of the best times I've had. There's always an adventure in New Orleans, good or bad. I've visited New Orleans a few times before Hurricane Katrina. However, I lived there after "The Storm". You get to know a place once you live there. Everyone who lived through the hurricane time referred to it as "The Storm". It was the division of time. Everything was referred to as either before or after the storm. I'm glad that I got to have an intimate time with New Orleans. The people are amazing and everyone has a story to tell. Everyone is affected and nobody that was lost have been forgotten.

One of the wonderful attributes I could pick up on was that New Orleans was going to overcome whatever difficulties came its way. The resilience of the people who stayed was infectious. And they didn't look down on the people who decided to not return to the area. It is thought of as a deeply personal decision. I can't imagine having to make that kind of decision: to leave the home I've ever known, not because I'm feeling adventurous, but because that home has been destroyed.

The weekend that I was moving away from the area, there was a threat of another major hurricane coming right back to New Orleans. And this time, the government was being proactive. They were evacuating the area. The national guard was coming into the city while all everyone else was in the great exodus out of the city.

Someone first told me the story of red beans and rice while I was living in the city. Women would do laundry on Mondays. Since they didn't have the time to fuss in the kitchen with dinner, they needed something that they could step away from and still be filling for their families. Beans take awhile to cook with very little fussiness. So here was born the tradition of red beans and rice on Mondays. Now we may not care about doing laundry on Mondays. I'm a weekend kinda girl myself, but anywhere you go in New Orleans where there are restaurants with a rotating soup menu, there's red beans and rice on Mondays!

I cook my andouille sausage separately to keep the integrity of the sausage. Sometimes when the sausage is cooked with the beans, it all blends together and the sausage turns to mush. Nobody wants mushy sausage. You don't want to miss the "snap" when you bite into your andouille sausage. The beans become creamy from mashing a small part of your beans to release some of their magic to thicken the liquid and making a gravy. When doing this make sure that you don't liquefy the beans. They won't thicken well if it's a thin puree.

New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

Serves 6 as an entree

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

3 Celery stalks, cut in half lengthwise and sliced

1 Green Bell Pepper, Seeded and diced

1 Large Yellow onion, diced

4 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Pepper

1 Smoked Turkey thigh

1 lb Red beans, soaked overnight, drained, rinsed

3 Bay leaves

4 - 5 Andouille sausage links, cut into about 1-in slices.

1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven. Once heated add in garlic, bell pepper, onions, and celery. Saute until soft, about 10 minutes.

2. Add in turkey thigh, beans, Bay leaves. Cover with enough water to cover the beans, about 3 - 4 cups.

3. Add in salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 90 - 120 minutes, until beans are tender.

4. While beans are cooking, in a separate skillet, cook sausage by heating over medium heat until done. Use packaging directions.

5. After beans are tender, remove turkey thigh. Remove any fatty skin and shred meat back into beans.

6. Remove 1 cup of beans including any cooking liquids. Mash beans into a bowl until a paste forms or use a blender or food processor (make sure not to liquefy the beans)

7. Add the mashed beans and sausage to the pot and simmer on low for an additional 20 minutes.

8. Divide beans into bowls and top with steamed rice. Enjoy!


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