Red Beans and Rice
Red Beans and Rice. It’s a phrase that’s usually said with the kind of reverence one uses for elemental dishes, identity food, stuff that defines a culture – things like “Apple Pie a la Mode” or “Sachertorte” or “Pierogies”. In this case, it’s a close cousin to that other staple of Cajun cuisine, jambalaya, and in many respects, it embodies many of the defining flavors of Louisiana cooking. Whatever the original recipe, Cajun food is remarkably forgiving, allowing for substitutions if necessary in faraway places like Calgary. With a beautiful fall upon us, a long cool evening’s the perfect time to enjoy this earthy, down-home spicy bowl of goodness. Put the ingredients in a slow cooker, the rice in a rice cooker, and forget about it till it’s ready to serve. Laissez le bon gout rouler.
- 5-6 smoked sausages, cut into diagonal 1-cm sliced. (I used some new Lilydale smoked turkey. They are GF, of course, and their firm texture holds up well to slow cooking).
- 1 bell pepper, any color, roughly chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 medium onion
- 5-6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 19-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 19-oz can red kidney beans
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp Cajun Seasoning (Club House to the rescue. If you don’t have this, add 1 tsp or so of Cayenne pepper, to taste)
- 2 tbsp poultry seasoning (rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram and oregano mix)
- 5 tbsp ketchup
- 1 cube concentrated chicken stock – Knorr makes a really savory one.
- 1 cup water
- 1-2 tsp salt
- 4-6 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce, or Tabasco. Any Louisiana hot sauce, with vinegar, is ideal.
- 1 tbsp cornstarch and 3 tbsp water
- 10-15 large cooked frozen prawns
- 2-1/2 cups short-grain rice
- Put ALL ingredients EXCEPT the prawns, rice and the cornstarch together in a large crockpot or slow cooker. Set on 6 hour cooking setting.
- Half an hour before dinner, mix cornstarch with water and pour into the boiling mixture in the crockpot, stirring well to incorporate completely.
- Cover and let it return to the boil – about 10 minutes. This will thicken it up to the perfect consistency.
- Prepare rice according to package instructions, on the stovetop or in your rice cooker.
- About 20 minutes before dinner, add the frozen prawns to the mix. It will take about 20 minutes to thaw and get these hot, without turning them rubbery from overcooking.
- Take out the bay leaves. They are a choking hazard, (he says, from personal experience).
- Serve sauce atop a generous cup of rice in a bowl or big plate, making sure everyone gets a few shrimp in addition to the smoked sausage.
This will easily serve 6-8. And leftovers taste fantastic.