Red Beans and Rice

Regular old ferial meals ought to do two things in my house. One, they need to require minimal input from me if I’ve been in the lab that day. I don’t know what it is, but by the time I get home from work, my whole brain above the brainstem just seems to shut down. So by the end of a work day, the work necessary to put dinner on the table needs to be at the instinctual level.  Two, they ought to provide some sort of leftovers for Himself to take for lunch.  I like leftovers for lunches because I can do all the lunch packing the night before, which limits the amount of work I do impaired by a general lack of coffee the next morning.  Thus I love crock pot meals. They’re easy. They’re filling. They make plenty. They reheat well. And, properly done, they don’t leave many dishes for after dinner, when I’m not only barely alive, but postprandial to boot.

This red beans and rice recipe meets all these criteria.  I have no idea how authentic it is, but we think it’s pretty tasty and so I don’t fret about authenticity.  I use small red beans (that’s their name, as far as I can discover) over kidney beans to avoid the phytohaemagglutinin issue.

  • 1/2 pound small red beans (not kidney beans)
  • 2 quarts salt water (2 quarts + 2 Tbsp kosher salt)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 small or 2 large stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • a dash of cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups chicken stock

For this recipe you need a standard 3 quart crock pot.*

The night before:

Pick over your red beans, wash them, and brine them overnight in the salt water.  It won’t make them hard.  A hard bean is an old bean.

Melt your bacon grease in a skillet.  What, you mean you don’t have a jar of bacon drippings in your fridge??  Use canola oil, but be warned, the finished dish will lack flavor.  Sauté your vegetables (except the garlic) in the skillet till they’re soft. Add the seasonings (pepper, cayenne, bay leaf, parsley, thyme) and the ham hock. Brown both sides of the ham hock well. Add the garlic at the end, so it doesn’t burn. When the garlic is cooked, take the pan off the heat and let the contents cool. When it’s cool enough to be refrigerated, put a lid on the pan (or cover it with foil) and stick it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning:

Drain your beans and rinse them well to get the excess salt off. Put the beans in the crock pot. Put the entire contents of the sauté pan in the refrigerator in the crock pot. Add the 2 cups of chicken stock. Give it a little stir, just for formality’s sake, then cover it. Turn the crock pot on.  Don’t forget that last step.  I have, and it’s heartbreaking.

Go on about your day.

When it’s time for dinner, cook up a couple of cups of rice, white or brown, whatever you have energy and patience for.  Take a potato masher and give the contents of the crock pot a cursory mash and stir.  Serve the beans over the rice. Fall into a postprandial coma. When you recover awareness, argue about who has to load the dishwasher.

* This meal can be cooked on the stove, but it needs to simmer for at least an hour to cook the beans.  If you’re cooking it on the stove, do the initial sautéing in the pot you will use to cook the beans.  Add the beans, 2 cups of chicken stock, and 2 extra cups of water and simmer it uncovered until the liquid is reduced by half and the beans are cooked, at least an hour.  Because this cooks uncovered, you need extra liquid.  If you cook it on too high a heat, you may even need to add liquid during the cooking process.

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