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Louisiana Red Beans & Rice

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Fat Tuesday isn't until February 28th this year, but carnival season is well under way in New Orleans! Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, which is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday that lands 47 days before Easter. While Mardi Gras is technically only one day, carnival season kicks off each year on January 6th.
Even though I am not down in Nola watching the parades this year, I am still participating in the festivities from up here in Ohio. Even if it's just in my own kitchen!

Red beans & rice is a dish that was traditionally prepared on Mondays, which were also "wash days." The beans were thrown in a pot with the pork bones from Sunday dinner and slow cooked while the laundry was done. Now, I didn't get a lick of laundry done on Sunday when I made this batch of beans, but I did put on a little New Orleans brass jazz to get in the carnival spirit before watching the Super Bowl! My recipe is pretty standard, but I have adjusted ingredient ratios and worked out a few shortcuts here and there over the years.

Louisiana Red Beans & Rice

  •  4 15oz cans of red kidney beans (or dry beans that have been soaked overnight)
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease (or olive oil)
  • 1 pound smoked ham hocks
  • 1 pound smoked Andouille sausage (cut in half lengthwise and then into pieces)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves removed from stem) or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube

Start by throwing the "holy trinity" (onions, bell peppers, and celery) into a dutch oven or a stock pot with the bacon greese or olive oil. Cook on medium high, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent. 
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Add sausage and ham hock and cook another 5-8 minutes, or until the sausage and ham hock start to brown. You can also brown the meats in a separate skillet while the trinity is cooking and then add them to the pot when browned. Add garlic, all spices, thyme, and parsley and cook another 3 minutes. 
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Add a little of the water and the bouillon cube. Once the bouillon cube has disolved, add the rest of the water and beans. If you are using stock instead of bouillon and water, just add all of the stock and salt at this point. 
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Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low and let simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 

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Use the back side of a large spoon to smash some of the beans. I usually just work my way around the pot a few times, stirring between smash rounds. Add salt to taste if needed and simmer another 30 minutes, or until it has a nice creamy texture. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh parsley and/or green onions if desired. Enjoy!

For more info on Mardi Gras:

http://www.neworleans.com/mardi-gras/

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