Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mei's Red Beans with Sausage and Rice

Okay, so this isn't *real* red beans and rice, but I thought it'd be a good idea to share this recipe...


I like to use beans from scratch because I'm watching my sodium intake and I'm a little wary of the sodium levels posted on most canned beans.

For this you need 12 to 16 oz. of dried red kidney beans which should be soaked overnight in 6 cups of water. I came up with the guesstimate because I started with an entire package of dried beans (16 oz.) but took out so much gunk and bad beans from the pot that I ended up with 3/4 of the package as my final product, so you may need to be very vigilant about taking out the bad beans. They will be easy to spot because 1) they will float to the top immediately and 2) their skins will start breaking as soon as you add the water. Also don't forget to take out any stones or impurities that may come with your bag of beans.

If you have no dried kidney beans, use any kind of dried bean you may have on hand - I think this would work with black beans or garbanzos.

Soak them overnight without any salt or baking soda. If you want, go ahead and soak the whole deal in the fridge as long as possible. When you're ready to use them, don't drain them yet - let them sit for a while.


In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat about 2 tsps. of canola oil and saute about 10 oz. worth of Portuguese (linguica) sausages - in Hawaii that's about two 5 oz. packages of the skinny ones - sliced to pieces about 1/2 inch thick. Saute the sausages until they are golden brown and have rendered up to 2 tbsp. worth of fat. Set the sausage aside and drain, but leave the remaining sausage fat in the pan.

To the sausage fat left inside the pan, add the following vegetables:

1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 stalks of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 green bell pepper, diced and seeded (or use a whole fresh poblano if you want)

Saute everything until vegetables are tender: you will know it when the onions and the celery become translucent.

As soon as the vegetables are ready, add the UNDRAINED beans to the pot with about a cup or two of the soaking water. Bring the whole pot to boiling, then cover and reduce heat to as low as possible in order for the beans to cook thoroughly, about 30 to 45 minutes. You want the beans to be soft enough to cut in half with a spoon, but not too soft that they're practically mushy.

Once the beans are cooked the way you want them to be, add the sausage that you have set aside back to the pan. To this you also add 1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes and let simmer for another 10 minutes - this way the acids in the tomatoes don't slow down the cooking process from the beans. The sauce will eventually thicken up on its own once the tomatoes break down and the beans cook at their own pace.

Serve with hot cooked rice.

This recipe makes about 4 to 6 generous servings, or about 2 to 3 days' worth of lunch and dinner for a hungry graduate student.


Not spicy enough? Assuming that you've used mild ingredients in the first place (no poblanos or "hot" Portuguese sausage), serve the recipe with extra hot sauce on the side.

Beans not cooked all the way through? If you've already added the tomatoes and the beans are still too hard, turn off the stove first. Then put the sauce in a freezer-proof container and freeze for at least 2 days; there's something about the freezing process that breaks down the beans and turns them into mush. When it's time to reheat, you can defrost the sauce in the microwave and cook from there, or you can do as I do and chuck the whole frozen chunk of sauce into the pot with exactly 1 cup of water. Cover and leave on low heat for at least 1 hour or until completely defrosted.

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