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Beans and Legumes, Chicken, Pork, Soup

Easy Red Beans and Rice with Smoked Andouille Sausage

I learned to cook in New Orleans when I was a student at Tulane. My favorite job was working in one of the earliest cooking schools and gourmet shops in the country, run by Lee Barns. Lee had gone to Paris as a student and then to Le Cordon Bleu, the famous French cooking school that Julia Child attended. There I met and assisted Paul Prudhomme, Giuliano Bugialli, and a host of others. I chopped, washed up and ran the register.

The next block over was my favorite fishmonger, Christiana. She was a woman of large girth and smiling face. I would tell her what I wanted to make and she’d pick out shimmering filets, whole snappers with eyes glistening, succulent oysters, or crawfish for etouffee, telling me what to look for and how to cook it.

Those were the days before nouvelle cuisine. Most dishes contained cream, butter and often alcohol. I’d go to different specialty shops for the best fish, meat, cheeses and staples. The small neighborhood stores often had a counter or a back door from which they served oyster and shrimp po-boys, crawfish pie, or spicy jambalaya. My favorite roast beef sandwich came from the side door off a small grocery store. You had to grab a fist full of paper napkins because the au jus ran down your arms as you took a bite. It was take-out only so we would go to Audubon Park and sit on a bench to eat. Friends lingered over meals then. There was time to cook all day.

Now our lives are busier and a cream sauce is for a special meal. One of my favorite simple meals then was red beans and rice, traditionally served for lunch on Mondays. If you went to an upscale restaurant, red beans and rice was probably what the staff ate in the kitchen. In one of Enola Prudhomme’s cookbooks, Paul’s mother talked about guests at her restaurant finding out what the staff was having in the back and asking for that.

This Red Beans and Rice recipe with Andouille Sausage takes some shortcuts. You should have it on the table in about 40 minutes. If you leave it on the stove a bit longer, it will only get better.

Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage

Serves 6


3 cans                 red kidney beans, rinsed (always rinse canned beans)

3 strips                smoked bacon, cut into lardons (¼“ pieces)

12 oz                   Andouille smoked sausage – optional (I often use chicken Andouille)

1 ½ c                    onion, chopped

½ c                     celery, chopped

1t                        garlic, chopped

½ c                     bell pepper, chopped (green pepper is traditional, but you can use red instead)

1 ½ t                   Worcestershire sauce

1t                        cayenne pepper (if you like it hot, add more)

3T                       parsley, chopped

1 ½ t                   oregano, chopped

1 ½ t                   thyme, chopped

½ t                      smoked paprika

1                         bay leaf

¼ c                     tomato sauce

2 to 3 c              water for the red beans

2c                       rice, long grain

3 ¾ c                 water, cold, for the rice

salt and pepper to taste


Measuring cups and spoons, a Dutch oven or large pot, and a medium saucepan


Fry the bacon lardons until crispy then remove from the pot.

Bacon strips cut into lardon

Bacon strips cut into lardon

Pour away all the grease except 2T. Sauté the onion in the remaining bacon grease until translucent. Add the celery, bell pepper and a good pinch of salt. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, parsley, oregano, thyme, smoked paprika, cayenne, bay leaf and tomato sauce and stir for 1 minute. Add the beans and enough water to just cover the beans and vegetables. You may have to add more water later, depending on how long you cook the beans.

in the pot

Taste, and if necessary, adjust the seasoning. You may want to add more cayenne, salt and pepper.

After about 15 minutes, add the sausage and cook for another 15 minutes.

As soon as the red beans are cooking, fill the medium saucepan with the rice and 3 ¾ c cold water and set on the stove to cook. Follow the rice package’s directions.

To serve: In the middle of a plate or open bowl place a mound of about ¾ c rice. Ladle the red beans around the rice. Enjoy!






Chicken, Great Gift Ideas, Pork, Tips

Quickly Brining Pork and Chicken

vauc vin marinating 2015101-_MG_2887.CR2

Quickly Brining Pork and Chicken

In my last post I talked about quickly and easily brining shrimp and fish. Brining pork and chicken also creates much moister and more flavorful meat.

My method for brining or marinating pork and chicken in 30 minutes relies on a special container that you can pull the air out of with a little hand pump. As the air is removed the brine or marinade is drawn into the meat. I’m usually trying to slim down on kitchen tools, but I use this Vacu Vin marinator all the time.

Without the Vacu Vin, a good rule of thumb for brining pork and chicken is:


1/2″ thick meat: 1/2 hour

1″     thick meat: 1 hour

2″    thick meat: 3 hours

3″ + thick meat: 8 hours

Even without the Vacu Vin, brining chicken and pork for a short time is worthwhile but the salt does not go very far into the meat.  What it does do is add moisture near the surface so as the meat cooks it stays moister.  The salt amplifies the flavor too.

Note: When a recipe specifies what type of salt to use, it is important to use that type to avoid surprises.  There are conversion charts available.

For example:

1 cup Morton’s table salt = 1.9 cups Morton’s Kosher Salt

Brined Chicken or Pork:

1 c     Morton’s kosher salt dissolved in
4 c    cold water

Put your brine and chicken in a zip lock bag, making sure the chicken is completely immersed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 6 to 8 hours. Put the chicken or pork in the brine in the morning and cook it that night. If the meat is to be brined for more than 8 hours, use less salt. Be sure to rinse and dry off the chicken or pork before cooking it – otherwise it won’t sear properly.

Additional flavors to put in the brine:  sage, peppercorns, bay leaf, cider vinegar (great for pork), rosemary, dill, mint

Bread, Drinks, Fish, Fruit, Pork, Travel

Sailing from Grenada to St. Vincent

6-May-08_101652-547x364The idea for this blog began with cooking on a sailboat.  My last trip was in May 2015. Here are some highlights of that trip.

Several girlfriends and I chartered a 42-foot sailboat out of True Blue Bay in Grenada and sailed up through the Grenadines to St. Vincent and back. It was a windy, sun drenched, wild ride among verdant islands.

We left our spouses at home, wanting to test our knowledge and skills as sailors. We laughed a lot and held our breath as the 30-knot winds (about 35 mph) from the East slid up the windward side of the volcanic spines of the islands, then rushed down the valleys to slam into our boat, Chinook. The wind roared around the tips of the islands creating a mishmash of wind, tide and current. At one point we took pictures of the speedometer as Chinook approached hull speed (the top speed for the boat) with the main double-reefed. Each reef in the sail depowers the sail to make it easier to control the boat in high winds. It was grand.

20151008-_MG_2444.CR2 Map of Grenada sailing trip-2444

The voyage of the Chinook – the first two weeks

My daughter and one of her best friends were on a big sailboat with me for the first time.  Their eyes got a little large as we occasionally heeled over with the side rail near the water and as we sailed up and over 10 ft swells. They were great crew and no one was sick!  Now, the true test is will they go with me again.

Chinook’s galley – a very small space!

With the winds (unusually high for that time of the year) staying between 20 and 30 knots for the first two weeks, it was almost impossible to use the grill. The galley (kitchen on a boat) stove had two burners, a small oven and a very good refrigerator – not always the case on a chartered boat. I had taken my bag of herbs and spices and Debbie, fabulous first mate, brought the sharp knives. Those, with a few favorite utensils that I carted along,  made up my travel supplies. The list will be in my next blog.

20151008-_MG_1571 Scones on Chinook -1571

Scones still hot from the oven with Mama’s local honey, nutmeg jelly and pepper jelly.

The crew ‘s special breakfast treat.

The second week, a very experienced sailor, Stephanie, joined us at St. Vincent and the two girls flew back home.  Debbie and I were thankful she joined us because we started hearing a strange thumping sound that she identified as the nut on the rudder about to fall off.  Although we had a good assortment of tools, nothing was big enough for this job.  We made an evacuation plan, putting the most essential items in three small dry bags (charts, compass, passports, money, credit cards, water, cell phones that worked everywhere, sun block …).  Our charter company directed us to Union Island for repairs which was a few hours sail.  Of course, a thunderstorm came up and pelted us with stinging drops as we came screaming into Clifton Harbor.  We waited until the storm had passed and moored.  Help came out immediately and fixed the boat.

Grenada is one of the “spice islands,” rich with nutmeg, bay, cinnamon and wonderful chocolate. I built my menus around fresh fish, great breads, luscious seasonal fruit and chocolate.  The Grenadian nutmeg chocolate is a special favorite of mine.  We made a nutmeg chocolate souffle with only three ingredient that is super easy.  The recipe is coming in a post soon.

20140516-IMG_5107 cacao pod.jpg-5107

photo by Guinevere Bell

Cacao pod: where chocolate comes from

Grenada and Bequia had the best stores for provisioning and had most of what we wanted. On Union Island we bought freshly caught tuna.

Before these trips I eagerly anticipate the surprises we find each time we charter in a new place. I never have any idea what I’ll find (or not be able to find), which is always the greatest challenge for the cook on the boat. What surprised me on this trip was a glorious variety of fruits, including mango, papaya, pineapple, pears and wonderful tomatoes!

The biggest culinary surprise was the bread: freshly made loaves on several islands and baguettes and croissants that were flaky and buttery on Bequia.

Not finding on Grenada the main ingredient for that quintessential summer drink, the Pimms Cup,  we had a treasure hunt for Pimms No. 1, a British gin-based liqueur, at every port of call. We finally discover a half bottle behind the bar at Lourdis on the island of Carriacou in Hamilton Bay. While there we also found that the jerk chicken at Lourdis will scald your mouth – but is delicious!

20150516-_IMG_0659 pimms bottle.jpg-0659

photo by Sebastian Duffell

THE BEST FOOD we had was in the Tobago Cays, a National Marine Park in the middle of the Grenadines. Most people call the Tobago Cays the jewels of the Grenadines. The Cays are three very small islands with miles of reefs and a turtle sanctuary, which makes this an excellent area for snorkeling and diving. The tiny pristine islands have white beaches, big lizards, and lots of birds. We saw scores of small brilliant reef fish, enough starfish to light the heavens, and rays and turtles of all sizes.

photo by Guinevere Bell

photo by Guinevere Bell

photo by Guinevere Bell

photo by Guinevere Bell

photo by Sebastian

photo by Sebastian Duffell


As we sailed into the narrow entrance to the cays, we were greeted by a floating concierge fleet, with men in small, brightly-colored motor boats offering mooring help, various provisions and “beach barbeques.” The men in the boats go by monikers. Our charter company had said to look for Romeo but we did not find him. Instead, Lady Luck was with us and Kojak offered us help mooring (by then, the wind had freshened and I wanted a mooring ball for one night). We accepted his help and his offer to have a lobster barbeque on the beach. This was the last day of the lobster season, we were not going to pass that up. The beach cooks share several large tents which cover grills. Regardless of who was cooking for you, you shared six or seven picnic tables. That day in May (which is low season), we were only one of four groups having dinner. I can’t imagine the pandemonium this place must be in during the high season with 30 or more boats moored and countless guys offering their wares and their help!



That evening was perfection, with the sun setting, the beach glistening white, the beer cold, the rum punch strong, and the smell of grilled lobster beyond enticing. Kojak and his wife prepared a feast to make your heart stop with buttery grilled lobster, fried plantain, rice and potatoes. The dessert, banana bread, was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was truly a dinner to match the magnificent scenery. They fixed dinner for us again on our return trip, but instead of lobster, we had fish and tender conch, which rivaled the lobster – and that’s saying a lot for conch!

The third week of our adventure my dear friend, chef and sailor Audrey and her son Sebastian, joined me.  As a young woman, Audrey had sailed across the Atlantic and lived on Palm Island, sailing charters for her father.  It’s a small world and many of the people she knew were still legends in the area.


Audrey’s tuna sashimi

The wind dropped to its normal range of 10 to 15 knots for this last leg of the journey.  With Audrey aboard we feasted every day. Look back at the picture of the galley.  Audrey would take one burner and I the other fixing sautéed vegetables and pan seared pork in a rum sauce.

THE MOST UNUSUAL FOOD we had was a mangrove oyster.


Mangrove oyster

In Tyrell Bay on Carriacou, the site of the customs office, a man called Warrior paddled a small rowboat up to our boat.


Most of what he had we did not need. Then he asked me if I’d ever tried mangrove oysters. I had never heard of them. Early the next morning he brought several dozen mangrove oysters for us to try. They are small briny bivalves with a tart buttery flavor.

THE BEST ISLAND for traipsing around and shopping on was Bequia, a funky island with a corniche for strolling that offers interesting art shops, a dive shop and several good restaurants. Just a short walk away from the water are artists’ galleries and workshops worth the walk.

20150516-_MG_1653 reaturant on Bequia.jpg-1653

Doris’ is a great place for provisioning. It’s on a back street and is easy to miss. She offers many goods from the US and England, a good wine selection, interesting canned goods if you are homesick, as well as fruits, fresh vegetables and frozen foods in the back. I bought frozen chocolate croissants to surprise the crew for breakfast since the bakery was only open on Mondays during the slow season.

Grenada and the Grenadines are beautiful islands which are well worth the trip, whether you’re sailing there or just visiting. Recipes from some of our great meals will be coming soon.