Saturday, September 12, 2009

Discovering a Classic: Red Beans & Rice

You would think that after having lived in several different states in the Southern US, I would have at least tasted the classic Red Beans & Rice before. Growing up in the Northeast, this was not a dish I had been familiar with as a kid. It was not served at home, and I can't recall ever seeing it on a menu. Even when I eventually moved and lived in the South, I still don't remember seeing this advertised on many restaurant menus, unless it perhaps was part of some horrible buffet line on a theme night. If I had tasted it at all, it had not left an imprint on my taste buds and certainly had not been homemade. I think this is more of a home-style dish anyway, not really the sort of thing you would normally even expect to find on a menu. It is inexpensive to make, comforting, and so very easy to prepare. And it is really very tasty. I honestly don't know how I spent my life without it until now.

There are several ways to make this dish, but here is the way I prepared it:

Red Beans & Rice (somewhat based on Goya's recipe)
(4 servings)

2 tsp olive oil, approximately (most versions call for more, but I was happy with this amount)
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded, diced
1 pkg Hillshire Farms cooked smoked sausage (I used turkey sausage, as it is less greasy and I like the taste), sliced into rounds) or a few cups of diced ham chunks
1-2 (15 ounce size) cans red or pink beans, drained, rinsed well, and drained again
1 packet Sazon Goya seasoning (I used the Cilantro & Annato flavor) or about 2-3 Tbsp Creole or Cajun Seasoning
1/4-1/2 cup unseasoned tomato sauce or passata
1/4-1/2 cup water
3-4 cups hot cooked rice

Heat oil in a large skillet, then add the onions, peppers, and celery. Saute for about 5-10 minutes over about medium-low heat until the veggies have softened up somewhat. Add the sausage slices and allow to cook about 10 minutes, until the meat has fully heated through, or in the case of the sausage, until it looks like it is covered with droplets of water. Add the beans, tomato sauce, water, and your seasoning blend of choice. I like the Sazon Goya blend because it gives a nice color and flavor without making it taste too salty. Allow this to simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes. Mix the sauce with hot cooked rice and serve. Simple, easy, yummy.

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