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
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.
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.
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!