When I was growing up, a family friend from New Orleans shared her recipe for red beans and rice with my mom. It quickly became one of my favorite meals. It was good, real good. But through the years, I’ve discovered that out there, in the wide world of recipes, there are versions that are so. much. better. They’re richer, deeper, spicier, saltier, porkier. (Yes, I am aware that’s not a real word).
This summer, a warm bowl of RB&R at Felix’s in New Orleans lit a fire in my belly (too much Tabasco) and fueled my desire to find THE BEST RB&R recipe in existence. It became a quest, like a search for the Creole ark of the covenant. I’m happy to report that after eight attempts, I may have found it.
And the winner is: Chef Virginia Willis. This beloved Southern chef and food writer has written multiple award-winning cookbooks, with her newest, "Lighten Up, Y'all," just out this winter. I found her RB&R recipe near the end of my search, and it was practically perfect. But, since I'm always goofing around with recipes (even those that don't need to be goofed around with), I decided to tweak it a bit to make it more in line with my personal tastes. I like my RB&R thick, so I used less liquid. I like pork fat, so I added more of that. (And I omitted the smoked paprika because my jar of smoked paprika smelled funky when I went to add it in.) The result was delicious and still pretty darn close to Chef Virginia’s, so when you and your fam fall in love with this dish, she’s the gal to thank! And here's her original recipe.
Red Beans & Rice
(recipe courtesy of Chef Virginia Willis, with minor modifications)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons bacon grease or 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 12 to 16 ounces andouille or other sausage (I used Alabama-made Conecuh), sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 ham hock
- 2 sweet onions, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 poblano or green bell peppers, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound red beans, soaked overnight and drained
- 6 1/2 cups chicken broth or water
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 green onions, chopped, plus a few more for garnish
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
Brown the sausage in the bacon fat or oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, and then add sweet onions, celery and peppers and cook until tender. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the beans, bay leaves, ham hock, green onions, cayenne, white and black pepper, salt and broth to the pot.
Bring it all to a boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, uncovered. Toward the end of cooking, remove the bay leaves and ham hock and use a wooden spoon or potato masher to smash some of the beans. This will thicken it some and make it creamy. Simmer for a few more minutes. Serve with cooked white rice, extra chopped green onions and your favorite hot sauce.