Beans and rice, as I’ve mentioned before, have always been staples of my cooking rotation. Beans and rice of all kinds are my comfort foods. So when I started thinking about doing red beans and rice for this challenge, I had to think “now how do I write down a recipe for something I don’t even have to think about cooking?” I remembered an episode of Good Eats in which Alton Brown made red beans and rice with a twist I had never tried: it was seasoned with pickled pork instead of smoky andouille. I started looking around for recipes and began running across a lot of claims that pickled pork was actually a more traditional seasoning meat than smoked pork for red beans. I like pickles and I love pork, so I decided to shake my bean routine up a little and make my red beans and rice pickled instead of smoked.
Red Beans and Rice
serves about 8
1 pound of red beans, rinsed, soaked, and drained
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
8-10 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
oil to saute’ the vegetables
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
hot sauce like Tabasco
12 ounces pickled pork*
2 quarts water
Salt and black pepper to taste
hot cooked rice (I used Rosematta, a chewy, smoky Indian red rice I got at Kalustyan’s in NYC)
Get all of your aromatics cut up and ready to go. Assemble the spices you will need and have your beans pre-soaked and drained.
In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper and stir, cooking until they begin to soften, maybe 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic, thyme, and cayenne to the aromatic vegetables and stir until they begin to get fragrant.
Pour the beans into the pot and add the water, hot sauce, pickled pork, and bay leaves. Don’t add the salt until the beans are almost done; salt can keep beans from softening when they cook.
Simmer for at least an hour or until the beans have softened to your liking; salt to taste. I always think that the flavor of beans improves with a little time, so I recommend letting it chill (literally and figuratively) in the fridge overnight.
Serve in bowls with a scoop of hot rice and a bottle of Tabasco sauce.
Making red beans with pickled pork was more work up front than just buying good andouille, and I love the flavor of andouille so I can’t say I won’t ever go back to my old habits, but the pickled pork added a really interesting complexity and tang. It reminded me a little of Brunswick stew or bigos (a Polish stew made with game and sauerkraut). It is certainly worth a try.
1 quart white vinegar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
3 bay leaves
4 dried serrano chiles
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander
1 tablespoon celery seed
10 cloves of garlic, peeled, whole
about a teaspoon hot sauce
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 pounds of pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes
a cup of ice
Pour the vinegar and all of the rest of the ingredients except for the pork and ice into a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes and then remove from the heat and cool; after it has cooled to room temperature, add the ice cubes.
Put the pork into a heavy 1 gallon ziplock back and put the whole bag in a bowl (this will keep any leakage contained!). Pour the cooled vinegar mixture and all of the spices over the pork, squeeze out as much air as you can and seal the bag. Put it in the refrigerator for three days. It will be ready to use after three days. I used about 1/3 of the pork in the red beans; the rest I removed from the brine, divided into containers and froze. It’s not pretty, but it sure is tasty!