365 Project Day 244: Happy VeganMoFo 2014!

Hello friends, and welcome to another round of VeganMoFo - the Vegan Month of Food!  This month, vegan bloggers around the world will be posting their hearts out and spreading the word of the fantastic-ness of vegan food.

Here at NOiG, I'll continue the 365 Days of New Orleans Vegan Treats "365 Project," showing you amazing and delicious vegan edibles that can be found and consumed in and around Nola.  For this special month, I'll be focusing in on our local cuisines, and what makes New Orleans food so freakin special.  With any luck, readers who follow along with each day's post will have a thorough education in New Orleans eating by the end of September!

And so, with no further ado, let's talk about red beans and rice!

Red Beans Action Shot!
Red beans and rice is the traditional Monday dinner of all New Orleanians.  Why Mondays, you ask?  There are a few explanations for this.  The most common is that Mondays were "wash days," when the womenfolk did the washing but also needed to cook dinner.  Proper beans are a slow and long cooking affair, so the beans could be left on the stove while the washing was done.  Another is that folks used the ham bones left over from Sunday dinner to season the beans, making Monday the best day to cook them.

I'm here to tell you definitively that you don't need a ham bone, or sausage, or any other animal parts in your pot of red beans to make them delicious.  (You certainly don't need to do any laundry.)  All you need is a bag of overnight-soaked Camellia red beans, a good trinity, and some patience.

Mel B.'s Red Beans and Rice
(which is to say, the recipe on the Camellia bag, veganized and me-ified)

You will need:
Prepping trinity: onion, celery, and bell pepper
  • 2lb bag of Camellia red beans
  • 1 chopped onion (preferably yellow or Vidalia)
  • 3-4 spears of celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • vegan sausage of your choice, if desired
  • salt and seasoning salt like Tony Chachere's
  • water
  • olive oil
  • a big (BIG) pot
  • a skillet
  • a wooden spoon
You will do:
Well Soaked Beans
  • sort your beans - pull out any rocks or undesirables
  • put your beans in a large pot or bowl and cover with fresh, clean water - be warned that they will expand pretty substantially!
  • let soak overnight
  • drain beans, rinse, and cover with water again (in your big pot this time), enough to boil them in for about two hours (you can add more as you go if needed); start on high heat and turn down as necessary
  • add your peeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, 1 tsp of seasoned salt, and 1 tsp regular salt to the beans
  • in your skillet with your olive oil, saute your trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper) until the onion is translucent and the celery is soft
  • add the cooked trinity into your bean pot
  • let your beans cook at a low boil, covered mostly, for a total of about 2 hours, stirring occasionally
  • when you're at about 1 hour 45 mins, take off your lid (if there's not much liquid in there you'll want to add a little) and add in your parsley; watch the pot more closely now and start tasting for salt
  • when you hit two hours, start tasting for done-ness
  • when you determine your beans are done, let rest for a few minutes before serving
  • serve generously over rice
Other notes:
Trinity, ready for saute
  • the goal of red beans is to be creamy - increase the creaminess by smashing some beans on the side of the pot when they become soft enough
  • speaking of smashing, smash your garlic cloves too once they've softened up
  • you can add more salt or seasoning salt, but remember that it will become more salty as it thickens and reduces so wait until later in the process
  • as for all seasonings, these things are to taste.  looooove garlic? hate garlic? love/hate heat? love/hate salt?  adjust as you see fit!
  • as for whether to start out with more or less water: with more you'll have to make sure it cooks down to the right consistency, but can also be a lil more lazy about watching your pot.  with less water you'll have to watch more closely and add some if it gets too thick before the beans are done, but have less risk of winding up with watery beans.  it comes down to what you're most comfortable with.  keep in mind also that beans do boil over much like pasta, due to the starch.
  • in case one of y'all somehow doesn't know this: bay leaves are never edible!  pull that right outta your bowl.
  • Trinity, sauteed
    concerned that you didn't do every step just perfectly right? trust me, nola did not become the city it is by doing everything just perfectly right all the time.
  • serve over rice with original Tabasco sauce in easy reach.  if you wanna be super-traditional and do some serious carb loading, also serve with French bread!
  • enjoy!  share with friends and neighbors and co-workers!  a good pot of red beans takes a village to eat.

You could also take the easy way out and get a Satchmo Dog from Dreamy Weenies (available always), or a Red Beans and Rice pizza from Mid-City Pizza (available on Mondays only).  ;)

Camellia red beans - accept no substitute.  Available wherever you make groceries.

Bean and Rice by Nola artist Rosie Peri

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