Red Beans and Rice

An Internet acquaintance wrote and asked: "Does the Wisdom Dude have a great red beans and rice recipe? (I'm originally from N'awlins and am still searching.)"

Well, first I soak up a package of red beans overnight — when I’m being a purist; otherwise I use a couple of cans. But first . . . a word about the "holy trinity." In New Orleans, of course, the holy trinity is peppers, onions, and celery. In Tampa, it's peppers, onions, and garlic. So, I tend to use a blend — more garlic than New Orleanians typically use, and less celery.

I use a finely chopped green pepper, a Vidalia onion (ditto), a crushed clove of garlic, and two or three stalks of finely chopped celery. Cook over medium high in about a tablespoon of olive oil, I insist on Spanish, until the ingredients are translucent. (No Northern carmelized — i.e., burnt — onions!) Add in your meat of preference; I like some cooked bacon, some smoked ham hock or a slice of ham, about a cup in all. A bit of Andouille sausage is nice, or chorizo, to taste. I cook it all up, add the beans, cook for an hour or so. It needs very little salt because of the cured meats, to taste.

I personally like about a quarter-teaspoon of MSG to blend it all, but some people are paranoid. I know many N'Awlins restaurants use it, but the tourists don't know they do, so no one complains.

After a couple of hours, smash some beans on the side of the pot with a spoon, then stir them back in. This thickens your mixture.

Proper Tampa black beans are the same; just lose the celery and add an extra clove of garlic. Also, add a teaspoon of comino and one-quarter teaspoon each of red pepper (cayenne), white pepper, cayenne (the standard Creole blend, no?). Red beans usually have something on the side, sausage, chicken, etc. Black beans tend to beef, but in Tampa always have heaps of finely chopped onions on top. I prefer scallions on top, myself.

I think I've covered it all. I've tended to borrow back and forth from all around the Gulf Coast — Mobile is good place for that, great town for food, unknown up north, but these folks are without palates. (He said in his prejudiced way!) Renée Monrose is from New Orleans too but I haven't compared recipes with her . . . yet.