New Orleanians took the work week’s start and turned drudgery into delicious. Red beans and rice – traditionally simmered all day Monday while the household catches up on laundry duties – is as common a pairing here as bacon and eggs are anywhere else. The key to its success is its flexibility and ease of preparation. Practically any meat – from ham hock to sausage to pickled pork -- is placed in the pot along with red or kidney beans and spices like bay leaves, thyme cayenne pepper and sage and set to simmer on the stove for two hours or six. Every family has got a favorite variation, and many of the city’s best restaurants keep it on their menu. Have it on Monday or any day of the week.
And if you find yourself back in your hometown wishing you could cure your Monday blues with some delicious red beans, here is a recipe to fill your cravings and impress your friends and family – though feel free to spice it up to your taste because everyone has their own way of preparing this Crescent City comfort staple.
Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot, heat the bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the tasso and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the grease in the pot. Season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the bay leaves, parsley, thyme, sausage, and ham hocks, and cook, stirring, to brown the sausage and ham hocks, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and stock or water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and starting to thicken, about 2 hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time.)
Remove from the heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.
Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.