This is how the legendary Louis Armstrong, signed off all his correspondence. Born and raised in New Orleans, soul food was on offer everywhere. From oyster po boys to chicken and sausage gumbo ya ya and a whole lot more. There’s crawfish, shrimp, red fish and many other delights to be sampled as well as quail and Cornish hens. However here’s Satchmo’s take on the most famous Creole dish of all …
“I thought her Creole gumbo was the finest in the world. As for her red beans and rice, well. I don’t have to say anything about that.
It is my birth mark.”
So what are the origins of this humble dish?
In most cities Monday is known as the dreaded day when the weekend has ended. In New Orleans, locals look forward to one very tasty Monday tradition, red beans and rice.
Monday was always wash day in New Orleans and traditionally the women would put on a pot of red beans to cook gently all day while they tended to the laundry. This would be flavoured by the left over ham bones from Sunday dinner and could be left to cook slowly.
Monday may no longer be laundry day but red beans and rice is still served religiously and everyone has their favourite place to eat it.
I love it served with pork chops but really you can make it your way and enjoy it anytime you want a rib sticking dish of deliciousness!
You will need:
1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and sorted over
3 tablespoons bacon grease
¼ cup chopped ham
1 ½ cups chopped onions
¾ cup chopped celery
¾ cup chopped green peppers
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
½ pound smoked sausage, split in half lengthways and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound smoked ham hocks
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
10 cups chicken stock or water
4 cups of cooked white rice
¼ cup of chopped spring onions to garnish
Place the beans in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches.
Let soak overnight, drain and set aside.
In a large pot, heat the bacon fat over a medium high heat add the ham, cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the onions, celery and peppers, season with salt, pepper and cayenne cook till soft (about 4 minutes) add the bay leaves, parsley thyme and ham hocks and sausage and cook, stirring to brown the sausage and ham hocks (about 4 mins.)
Add the garlic and cook for 1 min. Add the beans and stock, stir well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender and starting to thicken about 2 hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more water, about ¼ cup at a time).
Remove from the heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about ¼ of the beans against the side of the pot.
Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.
Serve over rice and garnish with spring onions.