While it is “technically” Spring, as I write this we’re in a winter storm warning here in Minnesota. Yup, a quick glance out the kitchen window and all I see is a white, wind-blown blur. So I guess it’s no surprise that my thoughts are still with warm, comfort foods. I’m not really complaining though. It’ll end eventually, to be followed by those dreaded days marked by 90 degree temperatures and shirt-drenching humidity. Gross. So, I really am quite happy nuzzling into a blanket while the snow falls. Please stop throwing tomatoes at me.
These cajun red beans and brown rice are just the sort of warm, comfort food that I’m talking about. They’re not fancy, but they’re loaded with flavor and are just different enough to add a little variety to your nightly meal routine. They’re made from healthy, whole foods and thickened naturally from the starch in the beans. The cajun flavor is delightful, though not too spicy. The heat level can be adjusted by adding more cayenne pepper. Ham works perfectly in this dish, and not a lot is needed. It gives it a nice, smokey flavor– though, you can easily make this meal with andouille sausage or without any meat at all for a vegetarian option. You may need to adjust the seasonings a bit, namely the salt, as the pork tends to add a decent amount of that. I love making a big batch of these beans and sending the leftovers with my husband throughout the week. Enjoy!
The Recipe: Cajun Red Beans and Brown Rice
2 cups red beans, soaked overnight with salt (or do the quick-soak method)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 dried bay leaves
3 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
3 cups chicken broth
6 cups water
2 cups of cubed cooked ham (andouille sausage is a good substitute)
cracked black pepper, to taste
red wine vinegar
Diced green onion, cooked brown rice, and hot sauce for serving
Quick-soak method: Place the beans in a large saucepan. Add enough water and a large pinch of salt to cover the beans by about an inch. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and leave covered for about 2 hours. Proceed with the recipe at this point.
In a large Dutch oven, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the green pepper, onion, celery, and garlic for a couple of minutes until tender. Add the paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, and thyme and cook for about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, water, red beans, and cubed ham. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for about 1 hour. Check along the way, turn the heat up a bit, if the beans are not softening. The dish will be done when the beans are very tender and the sauce has thickened. Finish with a splash of red wine vinegar. Season with salt, if necessary, though the ham usually supplies enough. Serve over hot brown rice and a generous sprinkling of green onions. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Cooks Illustrated Magazine
Hope you all have a fantastic weekend. See you next week!