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Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Before going any further let me say that I recently tried making this dish in a slow cooker.  All I can say now is that I wish I had tried this years ago.  It not only simplifies the recipe tremendously but it also means you don't have to tend this recipe all day long while constantly testing and adjusting the amount of broth to add to the pot.  Simply add all ingredients to your trusty slow cooker - using 4 cups of broth initially - set it on high for 7 hours.  I recommend checking for tenderness and adding more broth if necessary after 6 hours.  If you still wish to use the old fashion method please do as described below.

As with other Cajun recipes in this collection this one is fairly spicy, in keeping with tradition. To tame it down simply reduce the amount of pepper (red, white, black) by half. This is better than simply omitting one of the types of pepper because all three play a distinct role in the character of Cajun cooking.

pound dried red chili beans
pound Andouille (or other smoked sausage), thinly sliced, casing removed
1 whole ham hock (preferably smoked)
cup finely chopped onion
cup finely chopped celery
cup finely chopped bell pepper
2 whole bay leaves
teaspoon dried thyme leaves
teaspoon granulated garlic
teaspoon dried oregano
teaspoon cayenne
teaspoon black pepper
teaspoon white pepper
4-6 cups chicken broth
salt to taste

Prepare the beans by either soaking in water overnight OR bring beans, covered in water, to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes, remove from heat and allow to sit for one hour, covered.

Drain beans.  Add remaining ingredients (except salt - see note below) to pot along with just enough broth to cover the bean. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are tender, approximately 2-3 hours.  During the simmering keep a loose cover on the pot and stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot as you stir. Add stock from time to time as needed to keep beans submerged.

While the beans are simmering brown the Andouille in butter over high heat for 3-4 minutes. Drain the excess oil and set aside.

After about an hour and a half the ham hock should be removed and allowed to cool. Once cooled trim the fat from the ham hock and dice the meat and return it to the pot. When the beans are tender, remove the bay leaves and use a potato masher to mash about a third of the beans. This releases the bean curd which flavors and thickens the broth. Add the browned Andouille and allow to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

When the beans are tender enough for your liking they are ready eat. If the broth is too thick, thin it with water or a stock.

Serve over white rice.

Notes:

  • You may have to shop around for the red chili beans. If you must, you may substitute red kidney beans, but I believe they are inferior to the red chili beans for this dish (they will also take less time to cook.)
  • Don't add salt to the pot while the beans are cooking as it can cause the beans to "close up" and absorb less liquid.  This will significantly increase the cooking time.
 

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