2001 Mardi Gras Red Beans & Rice

This recipe came out of “Louisiana Real and Rustic” and I have a note on the page: Bam! It was when the Food Network was new and Emeril was big, big news. We loved watching Emeril cook and on a visit to New Orleans in 1999, Kumy and I treated ourselves to a fabulous multi-course dinner sitting at the coveted counter of one of Emeril’s restaurants. The cooks used Emeril’s famous “throw the salt on the pan from far away” trick, although they didn’t yell “Bam!” – but it was still fun to watch.

I know that some people use lima beans or other beans to make this, but I love red beans. It’s worth it to use red beans you soak yourself if you have the time, but comes out pretty good using canned beans, too. I must have made this for Mardi Gras, 2001, according to the name.

Soak 1 lb. red beans overnight in water, drain and set aside.
(Or use 4 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained. We don’t get the red beans they use in New Orleans in Nebraska, but kidney beans work fine.)

1 tsp oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped peppers (I often use more – 1 cup, because I love peppers.)
1/2 cup celery (Again, I often use more because I love celery.)
1 tsp salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme leaves (I often use more because, well, you know.)

Heat oil in a dutch oven and saute veggies and spices for 5 minutes.

4 bay leaves
1 lb. turkey ham or regular ham cut into cubes
6 oz. smoked sausage, cut in half and sliced into 1/4″ thick pieces

Add bay leaves and meat and saute 5 more minutes.

Beans
3 Tbsp chopped garlic
8-10 cups water

Add beans, garlic and water and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer two hours. Use a spoon to mash about 1/2 of the beans against the side of the pot. Add water if the mix gets too dry. Cook 1 1/2 more hours. Check the seasoning and serve with rice. You don’t want the red beans too dry – you’ll want to sop up all the broth with some crusty french bread.

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