by Jen L.
I grew up in Louisiana. Even though I haven't actually lived in Louisiana for nearly 14 years, I sometimes absolutely MUST have some Cajun food. We have a decent Cajun restaurant close by that has great gumbo, good seafood dishes and a nice overall variety of Cajun and Creole foods. Usually, though, I end up making it myself. While I was growing up, my mom managed to get her hands on one of the best Jambalaya recipes of all-time, which I like to serve from time to time. I make a mean Shrimp Creole, a recipe I concocted all on my own. It's kind of a fusion of versions from two favorite restaurants. However, when someone actually requests Cajun food from my kitchen, it's usually red beans and rice with andouille sausage.
Now here's the thing--andouille is not the easiest thing to find outside the south. When we lived in NYC, I usually ended up going with "andouille-style" smoked sausage, which tastes ok. If you can get your hands on real andouille, go for it. (Bonus points if you can find Manda brand!) If you are not into hot and spicy things, you can certainly replace the andouille with regular smoked sausage. You can also omit the sausage completely for a hearty vegetarian meal. I should point out that some recipes call for celery, but I don't care for crunching down into a piece of celery with my beans and rice. But if you like it, toss a couple of chopped ribs of celery in there.
CAJUN RED BEANS AND RICE
- 1 pound dry red kidney beans
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (Louisianians like Tony Cachere's)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste) or hot sauce
- 1 pound andouille sausage
- 2 cups long grain white rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For best results, soak dry beans overnight. Drain and rinse beans when you're ready to put the dish together, and return them to your pot. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook onions, peppers and garlic until onions are transluscent. Add to pot of beans. Pour 6 cups of water over beans and vegetables. Add Cajun seasoning and cayenne. Stir well, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. When the 2 hours is nearly up, slice andouille into rounds or bite-size pieces and brown in a skillet. (Andouille generally comes fully cooked, but be sure to check the package.) Add browned andouille to beans and simmer for 30 minutes. Cook rice as directed. Serve beans and sausage over rice.
(Photo from Simply Recipes)