Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Honor of Fat Tuesday or as the French would say, Mardi Gras

Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

2 cups dry Small Red Beans, soaked overnight
2 medium yellow onions
4 sticks celery with leaves
1 green bell pepper
4 Tablespoons olive oil
6 cups water
1 teaspoons of salt
½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons of dry thyme
1 ½ teaspoons of oregano
1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
8 ounces of tomato sauce
Cooked rice

Soak the beans: In a large pot, cover beans with enough cold water to submerge them by 2″. Cover the pot tightly and let the beans soak for 8 hours or overnight.
Bell pepper, celery and onion - the trinity of Creole cooking.Prepare the vegetables: Remove outer skin, trim ends and chop the onion. Rinse and chop the celery with its leaves. Remove seeds and stem  and chop the green pepper.
Heat 4 Tablespoons of oil in a 12” skillet. (if making a meaty version add the sliced andouille sausage at this time, brown for 5 minutes) then, Sauté the onion, celery and green pepper over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, turning occasionally with a spatula. Veggies are done when the pepper lightens in color and the onion is translucent. For best flavor, do not brown.

Put it all together in a pot: Drain the beans. In a large oven-proof casserole or dutch oven, put the beans and 6 cups of cold water, (if making the meat version add the ham hock at this time, you may also use a smoked turkey wing, for a smokey flavor) and stir in the sautéed veggies. Now add the salt, black pepper, oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, creole seasoning and garlic.

Bake in oven: Preheat oven to 325°. Put beans on the center rack and bake for 2 ½ hours covered, stirring every half hour or so. After 2 ½ hours, add the tomato sauce and remove the lid from the bean pot. Cook for a further hour, until beans are tender.

Time to celebrate: Make a batch of rice according to package directions. Put a scoop or two of rice in a bowl and top with Red Beans. Serve with your favorite Hot Sauce.... Now get out your favorite Neville Brothers music and prepare to PARTY! It’s Mardi Gras after all!

Meat Option: For a meaty version of this dish, add 1 pounds of smoked ham hock or smoked turkey wing or drumstick and 1 lb sliced andouille sausage to the pot and cut back on the olive oil  On the other hand, this vegetarian version makes a great side dish to Country Style Ribs, Corn Bread, BBQ Tri-tip. It’s all good!

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