So for today’s Mardi Gras post I thought I would share Mimi’s red beans and rice recipe. My great grandmother, Mimi, used to make this for us when we would come visit at Christmas time. My grandmother continued this tradition while she still lived in New Orleans.
Red Beans and rice is usually what you make on Monday. In fact in New Orleans you might hear them called wash day red beans and rice. Way back when folks had to wash their clothes in a big wash pot over a fire outside, they would set a smaller pot of beans on the fire and let it simmer all day long while they spent the day washing clothes.
There are as many different recipes for red beans as there are MaMa’s in New Orleans. This is the one my family makes with just a couple of modifications I made to make up for the fact that I can’t get some ingredients here in NC.
One of the keys to really good beans is using the right brand. I am not plugging Camellia Red Beans as an affiliate or paid advertiser, they really do make a better pot of beans. Not sure what it is, but they are way creamier than the store brand that I am stuck with here in Asheville. So if you can get your hands on a bag, use them instead.
Look for kidney beans that are light red. They are fresher than the dark red beans.
Mimi’s recipe also calls for pickled pork instead of ham. I don’t think I have ever seen pickled pork outside of Louisiana, so good luck finding it. I use ham and reduced the salt to make up for the salt in the ham.
Many recipes call for sausage, celery and bell peppers. Mimi would omit because she though they made the beans too sweet. I do like to add sausage to my white beans— the sausage works well with the creamy soft taste of lima beans as opposed to the stronger favor of kidney beans.
Mimi’s Wash Day Red Beans and Rice
- 1lb bag of light red kidney beans
- 3 TBSP of cooking oil (I use olive oil)
- 1/2 a package(8oz) of ham pieces
- 1 large onion
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- fresh coarsely ground pepper
- 1TBSP dried thyme (or 3 TBSP of minced fresh thyme if you have it)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 dashes tabasco (more or less to taste)
- a handful of freshly minced parsley
- 3 cups cooked white rice
In a large dutch oven rise and sort the beans. You want to rinse of the dust until water runs clear. By sort, I mean look for any icky looking beans, stones, or anything else that should not be in there.
(that lone pinto bean probably was not a big deal, my OCD side told me otherwise)
Fill the pot a little more than halfway with fresh water. Add a TBSP of salt and cook on high bringing it to a rolling boil. While the beans are boiling prepare the seasoning vegetables and ham. Mince the garlic, Dice the onion and ham (ham is mostly for seasoning, you do not need it to be really chunky pieces)
Saute in the oil over med high heat. Be sure to put the ham and onion in the pan first. The moisture from the onion and ham will release first, keeping the garlic from burning and getting bitter as it hits the hot pan.
Cook until the vegetables start to wilt and become fragrant.
Once the beans start to lose their wrinkles(this meas they are ready to take in the water, and you want the water to be fresh with the seasonings), add the ham and vegetable mixture.
Add bay leaves, ground pepper, thyme, and…
…the good stuff.
Reduce to a simmer, and let the beans cook for 2-3 hours, or until the beans are tender. Stir often, scraping the sides of the pot to reincorporate the what Mimi called the pot liquor (the dried spices stuck to the side of the pot). You may need to add more water as it cooks. If the beans are cooked through, but the gravy is still thin, smash some beans with the back of the spoon against the side of the pot. This will help thicken the gravy without losing the structure of the rest of the beans in the pot.
I didn’t add cooking instructions for the rice, because growing up in an Polynesian/Cajun household. I only know how to cook rice with this:
To serve, remove and discard the bay leaves. Ladle beans into a shallow bowl, spoon rice in the center, toss a generous pinch of minced parsley on top. Serve with a crusty piece of garlic bread and a Dixie Beer. Add a really good pork roast for a nice welcoming feast fit for out of town company (check out my Grandmom Marietta’s Pork Roast recipe here).
Laissez bon temps roule, ya’ll. And Happy Mardi Gras!
Fiber artist Stacey Budge-Kamison AKA UrbanGypZ lives and works in Asheville NC. While she has a dedicated studio in Biltmore Forest, she can also be found knitting in public, hammering out her latest e-course at local cafés in Asheville and spinning yarns in her booth at her favorite arts festivals. A designer at heart, Stacey has decided that her mission is to help fellow knitters, crocheters, weavers and felters embrace their own style and creativity by exploring fiber art as it is a part of their everyday life.