It's officially fall, and even though the temperatures have not dipped appreciably here in the land of Windemere, I'm craving some "stick to your ribs" meals. I love a meal with a history - one that reminds you of your grandma, even if she was such a bad cook that she burned the toast every morning. In New Orleans, this dish was traditionally made on Monday, i.e. "wash day" for most women. Wash day may be a thing of the past, but red beans and rice on Mondays doesn't have to be! This dish improves after a day in the fridge, so make it on a lazy Sunday afternoon and serve it on a hectic Monday night.
A few notes before we begin. If your grocery store is like mine, you will find both dried red kidney beans and smaller dried red beans. Ignore the name of the recipe and get the kidney beans. The red beans just won't mush up the way you want them to. If you can get your hands on them, use Camellia Brand beans.
1 lb. dried red kidney beans
1 lb. Andouille sausage, sliced
1 tbsp. butter
1 large onion, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
5 ribs celery, diced
4 garlic gloves, minced
Cayenne pepper, to taste (I use 1/4 tsp. to start)
Creole seasoning, to taste (I use 2 tbsp. to start)
Hot sauce, to taste (use your favorite - I prefer Crystal)
6-8 cups water
1 lb. smoked ham shanks
2 bay leaves
Rinse and pick through the beans. Place them in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the beans to soak for an hour. Drain the beans and set aside.
Melt the butter in a heavy pot and cook the sausage until brown. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and saute for 7 minutes. Add the garlic, cayenne, and creole seasoning, and saute for 30 seconds. Add the ham shanks, beans, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover.
Bring the pot to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes. If needed, add water to keep the beans covered while they're being cooked. When the beans are done, mash some of them against the side of the pot.
Serve over boiled rice with a side of cornbread.