While I am currently enjoying truffle butter on everything but my waffles, courtesy of claudia, this is generally a time of frugal eating on Forest Street. Its almost always cheaper to cook rather than eating out, but even if one “starts from scratch,” there is a continuum of expense starting with peanut butter on saltines and ending somewhere in the neighborhood of Niman Ranch beef and lobster tails. I tend to shop and cook somewhere in the middle of that range, but I do enjoy finding a recipe that makes a cheap, filling meal that we are all willing to eat. As you will see, this one got a little more platinum level than I had originally anticipated, but that was kind of a fluke.
In the February/March edition of Cook’s Country magazine, I discovered a recipe for Red Beans and Rice that sounded like it would give me the flavor of that dish (which I love) without the necessity of messing around with a ham bone (which I hate). It calls for dried kidney beans, which are dirt cheap, rice, which is equally inexpensive, and a variety of other things you probably have in your house anyway. The only potentially expensive ingredients are bacon (which is perpetually on sale) and andouillle or kielbasa. There is no andouille around here (and more’s the pity), but I had bought some kielbasa (on sale) and was preparing to make the dish when my husband called from The Road (that’s where he works) and said he was driving by a sausage factory in Ohio, and would I like some?
I was already feeling sorry for myself about the substitution of kielbasa (which i don’t even like) for andouille, so I asked him to go in and find me something smoky, spicy and interesting at Mom Wilson’s Country Sausage. He called back and said he’d bought some spicy smoked sausage, and would be home in time for me to add it to the beans and rice. It was pricey, but it was the perfect flavor for the dish, and made me feel considerably better about the Absent Andouille. Use Kielbasa, use andouille if you can find it, and if you’re lucky enough to live near Delaware Ohio, go pick something out from Mom Wilson’s. Do it soon, though; they close for the summer.
Here’s the recipe as I made it:
Red Beans and Rice
- 4 slices bacon, diced
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
- 1 celery rib, chopped fine [Note: since the onion, pepper and celery were all going in the pot at the same time, I chopped them at the same time in the food processor]
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced, fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon minced, fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I added a tablespoon)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 pound dried red kidney beans
- 7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 7 cups water
- 1/2 pound andouille sausage, kielbasa or other smoky sausage halved lengthwise and cut into small pieces
- 6 cups cooked, long grain rice (from 3 cups raw rice)
- Hot Pepper Sauce
-Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper and celery and cook until softened, stirring frequently (about 8 minutes). Stir in garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon pepper, oregano, thyme, cayenne, bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, beans, broth and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and maintain vigorous simmer (allow it to bubble). Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until beans are soft and liquid is thickened, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
-Stir in sausage and cook until liquid is thick and creamy, about 30 minutes. Unless you already have 6 cups of cooked rice, cook rice during this 30 minute period.
-Season beans with salt and pepper and serve over hot, cooked rice with hot pepper sauce.