I have a group of awesome friends and one of my favorite things about them is that we all love to cook. With the New Year and increasingly crazy schedules and tight budgets, we decided to start a supper club of sorts. Once a month, we get together and somebody teaches us how to make one of their signature dishes and everybody brings complimentary side dishes. I claimed the month of February because of Mardi Gras and my love for New Orleans food. Together we made my red beans and rice and a King cake and we munched on Cajun spiced deviled eggs, crab dip, pralines and all sorts of other goodies.
Traditionally red beans are made with andouille sausage but as a vegetarian with mostly vegetarian friends, I obviously leave the meat out. Instead I substitute one of my favorite secret ingredients: liquid smoke. It costs a whopping $2.50 at my grocery store (next to the BBQ sauce and marinades, if you’re interested) and lasts forever. It adds a little bit of oomph to dishes that usually include sausage or bacon. Can’t find it or a little afraid? Feel free to leave it out, but you’re missing out on something. As for the beans themselves, this is a recipe where you’ll really want to start with dry. You’ll end up with a really tasty dish that’s fat and cholesterol free. Not a bad way to celebrate a holiday that’s normally associated with indulgence.
Red Beans and Rice
- 1/2 pound dried red beans, picked through
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke (optional)
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- salt to taste
- 4 cups cooked rice (brown or white!)
- Tabasco (optional)
In a large pot, cover beans with an inch of water. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook for 30 minutes, adding water if needed. Once beans start to soften, add onions, celery, garlic, Cajun seasoning and liquid smoke. Cover and simmer until beans are soft, another 30 minutes or so. Remove cover, add bell pepper, and continue simmering uncovered. Periodically stir the beans, mushing them against the sides of the pot with the spoon until the mixture is thick and stew like, then adjust salt to taste. Serve over with rice with Tabasco on the side. Serves 4 to 6.