Red Beans and Rice- Southern Food Challenge 4

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.



*Pickled Pork

I did a combo recipe of Alton Brown’s Pickled Pork and a New Orleans Cuisine blog‘s version:

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!



Cold comfort- Black Beans and Rice

It’s the end of January and I haven’t slept in my own bed in over six weeks. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve slept in the same bed for more than three nights in a row in the past six weeks. It’s been a cold winter so far, even here in the South, and I feel myself reaching back in my memory for the comforting foods that I’ve had all my life, that have sustained and warmed and satisfied.



Black beans are one of my very favorite things to eat. With rice, they have been a comfort meal for me through thick and thin. I remember my mom making black bean and smoked turkey chili on a wood stove when Hurricane Opal buried us under oak limbs and power lines. I’ve been making my own versions of black beans and rice, adapted to the season, throughout my adult life. With a golden lace of olive oil on the surface, a chile-infused pot of black beans warms and fills the belly without weighing the body down with regret. It is a virtuous indulgence, to me anyway. An inky, brothy bowlful makes me feel at home wherever I am.


Black Beans and Rice

Soak 1 pound of black beans overnight covered  with lots of  water.

Or, you can do a quick soak by covering the beans with plenty of water in a pot, bringing it all to a boil for about 2 minutes and then allowing it to sit off the heat, covered, for about an hour.



2 -3 roasted and peeled poblanos

2 serranos, minced

1 chipotle, either dried or canned in adobo (if you want a smoky flavor)

Or, a red bell pepper, roasted and peeled (I have used the jarred kind)

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, crumbled between your fingers

Pinch of thyme

1 bay leaf


Chicken broth, low salt or salt free, or water


Kombu (optional) or nopalitos (also optional, and I would get them already de-spiked and sliced)


Drain the soaked beans. Re-cover with water or chicken broth (or a combination) by about 2 inches. It is important not to salt the beans at this point, because salt can make it difficult to get the beans to soften. Add the whole piece of kombu to the liquid, if you are using that. Cover and bring the pot to a low simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Test a bean for tenderness. They should still have a bit of “bite” to them when the aromatics are added. One way to test is to smush a bean between your fingers; it should still give a little resistance at this point, but not feel like a pebble. Keep the liquid covering the beans and continue to check every 10 minutes or so. When the beans are soft, fish out the kombu, cut it up into small pieces and return the bits to the pot.


Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute’ the onions until most of the liquid has cooked out and they are tender but not brown, salting them with a couple of generous pinches of salt. Add the garlic and the spices, stirring it all together to toast the spices. Add the chopped peppers and nopalitos if that’s how you decide to roll, and cook just until the serranos and cactus begin to soften.


Scrape  the hot vegetables into the pot with the beans and add more liquid if needed to keep everything covered. Simmer very low- what you want to do at this point is to infuse the beans as they finish softening; a higher temperature will just bash them to mush. After the flavors have all mingled for 10 minutes or so, taste a spoonful and see if you want a little more salt. Continue to simmer until the beans have reached your preferred tenderness. Serve with a scoop of rice.



I like the flavor of  the chilis I listed but have used just red bell peppers and jalapeños before. Peeling the larger peppers like poblano and bells is important because otherwise there are bits of the cellophane-like outer skin floating annoyingly around amongst  the beans. Nothing tasty about getting that stuck in the back of your throat. And if you don’t have any Mexican oregano, which seems a little sagey-er, use a little pinch of Italian oregano instead.



Kristen’s boys called this recipe “Special Sauce.”

It’s kind of like a raita, adding a cool crisp contrasting flavor to a sometimes spicy meal:


About 1 cup sour cream

1 minced cucumber (scrape out the seeds first if they are big)

3 minced whole scallions



Stir together and allow the flavors to mingle for 20 minutes or so. Add a spoonful to the beans and rice. It is so, so good.