Some people dread Mondays because the weekend is over and they must return to work. I have grown to love my chaotic Mondays. I spend much of the weekend cooking, testing MOMables recipes, cleaning, grocery shopping, hanging out with the family…well the list goes on.
Since returning to work full time, it’s gotten more difficult to manage the day to day things that seemed like tedious daily tasks before when I stayed home. I used to huff and puff about making beds, changing diapers and tackling the never ending Mt. Everest of laundry on a daily basis; I just wanted to stay home, blog and go to the park with the kids. Now, the beds get “stretched” and I try to squeeze the daily maintenance stuff when I can in smaller chunks during the day —I’m still waiting for the dishwasher to unload itself.
It never occurred to me, that I would embrace the New Orleans tradition of cooking red beans and rice on Mondays. Mondays used to be the traditional “laundry day” of the week. Women would put on a pot of red beans to cook all day while they tended to the laundry, since this a a one-pot meal that requires very little attention.
Now make beans on Mondays because my inbox has over 300+ emails that need to be sorted through, loads of laundry from the weekend to be done, Huffington Post deadlines to submit, run a business and get the kids from school by 3pm to go to ballet, music and gymnastics-that’s all. To say that Mondays are busy is an understatement.
It also helps that Baby G now attends “school” on Mondays. When I had our part time sitter at home, I didn’t get very much done. I wont’ go into details, but last year was a very stressful year for me trying to figure out how to juggle it all. I am still getting used to the family/work/life balance thing and I’m sure I still have a lot to learn.
Back to the red beans. So what’s the big deal about red beans and rice you say? To date, you can see red beans and rice in most homes around New Orleans and in the “specials” menu in restaurants. Whether you cook them on a cast iron pot or in the crockpot (both options below) this recipe yields creamy red beans your family will love.
The key to good red beans is time. Red beans need to cook slowly, over low heat and well. I asked Chef John Besh what his red bean secret was and he said: using “flavorful fat”. For this reason, I began cooking my bacon in my cast iron skillet and saving the fat in a glass jar inside the fridge. A little bit of this bacon fat instead of vegetable oil adds a lot of flavor; and in the end, fat is fat.
Even if you aren’t from New Orleans, I encourage you to adopt a “one pot meal” Mondays. It will make your life a lot simpler and nourish your family at dinner time.
New Orleans Red Beans and Rice Recipe
- 2 onions, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or bacon fat, from Sunday’s breakfast
- 1 pound dried red kidney beans
- 8-12 oz ham bone, or
- 8-10 oz smoked tasso, or
- ½ lb uncooked bacon, 4-6 strips, diced
- 3 leaves bay
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2-3 green onions, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste – how much salt you use will vary depending on what meat you decide to use
- 3 cups cooked white rice
- In a 5-8 quart heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, add oil (or bacon fat), onions, bell peppers and celery until vegetables are tender and the onions translucent.
- Add kidney beans, ham hock (or tasso or bacon), bay leaves and seasoning. Stir to combine and toast seasoning with vegetables for about a minute or two.
- Add 2-3 inches of water above the bean line (about 8-9 cups).
- Increase the heat to high and bring water to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce heat to low, allow the beans to simmer for 2.5hours.
- From time to time, while you fold laundry, pick up toys or answer 20 emails, come back and stir the beans to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Continue cooking the beans covered until they are creamy -about 2.5hours- and they begin to break apart when you stir them.
- When beans are done cooking, take out ham hock (or smoked tasso) remove bone and roughly chop ham meat. Return it to pot, give it a good stir and cover.
- Optional: remove 1 ½ cups of red beans from pot, blend in a blender, pour back in the pot. This will yield a very creamy thick base.
- At the last minute, stir in green onions, check for salt and pepper seasoning and serve with white rice.