Sunday, January 10, 2010
My Venture into Cajun/Creole Cuisine
Sorry Blog Buddies for the long delay in posting a recipe! With the holidays and work, I've not had a lot of time to work on my blog. To make it worse, I have jury duty this week. UGH! It's not that I hate jury duty. I do feel a sense of obligation to do my civic duty. However, it always seems to come at the most inopportune times. For my international readers who may not know what jury duty is, check out Wikipedia.
When I started my blog, I originally planned to post only one recipe per week. Since I started my blog in August, 2009, I have posted two or three recipes per week and I can't keep up with that pace. So, from now on, I plan to post only one recipe per week with the option to post more often as time permits. For all of you working moms out there who have to juggle work, family obligations, cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, and more, you have my utmost respect. I don't know how you do it!
I am always getting requests for budget-friendly meals and this is one of them. These rice and beans are nutritious, wholesome, and inexpensive to make. Well, with all of the bacon and sausage, "nutritious" may be stretching it some. I got nearly EVERY major ingredient on sale. I made this entire pot of rice and beans for under $8 – and it makes a lot. If your budget is particular tight this week, leave out the sausage, add extra beans and/or rice, or skip the parsley. I don't recommend leaving out the bacon because it adds so much flavor. This dish is so good, it will also appeal to those of you who can easily afford more expensive meals. It's delicious!
You'll notice the title of this recipe is "EASY Red Beans and Rice." I also make a variation of this recipe by cooking the beans from scratch with a couple smoked ham hocks. Delish! It does take more time and planning. It's smokier and has more depth of flavor but, sometimes, I don't have time to spend forever in the kitchen. That's when I opt for this quicker version.
I had Red Beans and Rice in New Orleans several years ago and fell in love with the dish. I had it at the recommendation of the owner of a small mom and pop restaurant that I found myself in. It was SO good! The dish was smoky and had incredible flavor. I love spicy food but the Red Beans and Rice at that restaurant almost set my hair on fire. It was SPICY. I wish I could remember the name of that restaurant because I'd love to go back. Anyway, according to the owners, Red Beans and Rice is a Creole dish – not Cajun. Go figure! I guess you learn something new every day!
You're going to laugh but I really like the Red Beans and Rice at Popeye's Fried Chicken. It's really good! In fact, I find myself going to Popeye's, not for the chicken, but for the Red Beans and Rice. If you're fortunate to live near a Popeye's, be sure to try their Red Beans and Rice sometime.
I'm sure I'm going to get hate mail from people criticizing the fact I'm using canned beans or that this recipe is not authentic. I don't claim to be an expert on Cajun or Creole cuisine. Any advice or historical perspective on this dish would be greatly appreciated. Enjoy – and happy eating!
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Easy Red Beans and Rice
1/4 lb bacon, cut into small pieces
8 oz andouille sausage or kielbasa sausage, casings removed and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 large onion, diced
1/4 tsp sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning (less if you prefer things less spicy)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
4 15.5 oz cans red beans
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked rice
Italian Parsley, chopped (for garnish)
In a skillet over medium heat, add the bacon. When the bacon is about half done, add the sausage and fry until the bacon and sausage are deep brown – stirring every few minutes to keep the meats from burning.
While the bacon is cooking, add 1 can of the beans (including the juice) to a dutch oven. Mash the beans thoroughly with a potato masher (or puree them in a food processor). Add the remaining cans of beans and their juice (but do not mash) to the dutch oven, stir well, and turn the heat on to medium-low. Cover and allow the beans to gently warm as you prepare the remaining ingredients.
When the bacon and sausage are brown, add the meat to the beans – leaving the drippings in the skillet. Stir the beans and re-cover. Add the onion and sugar to the bacon drippings and cook until the onion is very soft – about 8 to 10 minutes. While the onions are sautéing, I normally start cooking my rice in a sauce pan. If you use Minute Rice, you can start it later.
When the onions are soft, add the garlic, Cajun seasoning, cumin, and cayenne (if using) to the skillet with the onions and cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the liquid smoke and onion mixture to the beans and stir everything to combine. Cover, increase the heat to medium, and simmer lightly for about 15 to 20 minutes – stirring every few minutes. The goal is for your rice to be done at about the same time as the beans so plan accordingly. If the beans gets too thick, add a little water. I prefer thick rice and beans so this recipe is not very brothy. Before serving, taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed. It's likely you'll need some salt but the amount will vary depending on the brand of bacon, sausage, and canned beans you purchase.
To serve, ladle some of the beans into a bowl and top with some cooked rice. Sprinkle the rice and beans with a little parsley for garnish.
1) The brand of Cajun seasoning that I buy has a pretty good kick to it. With the addition of the cayenne, these beans are definitely spicy. Of course, rice and beans are supposed to be a bit spicy. If you are worried about the spiciness level, leave out the cayenne completely and reduce the Cajun seasoning by 1 tsp. Near the end of cooking, taste it for spiciness. If you think you can handle a little more spice, go ahead and add a little more Cajun seasoning and/or cayenne.
2) For those of you who really enjoy spicy foods, feel free to add a little hot sauce (such as Frank's Hot Sauce or Tabasco).
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 5:57 PM