For the rest of the country, red beans and rice is a New Orleans thing. But in New Orleans, it's more than just a simple meal, it's a Monday tradition. This red beans and rice recipe is by far my favorite version. It's creamy, smoky, it has some heat, and it means more to me than just a no-frills comforting meal. This is how I prepare my Monday Red Beans and Rice.
In a large pot over MEDIUM heat, brown the sausage in the bacon drippings until the edges have crispened. If you're using chopped pieces of bacon (½ cup), wait until the bacon has crispened and rendered some fat before adding the sausage to the pot. Once the sausage has evenly browned, remove it with a slotted spoon and place it on a plate, and set it aside.
If you're using pickled pork, add it at this point. Return smoked sausage to the pot along with the smoked ham hock, and bay leaves. Optional: Save about ½ of the browned sausage to garnish your plate with when you serve teh red beans.
Pour 8 cups of water into the pot. Add the Camellia brand red beans to the pot and bring to a boil - about 10 minutes. Cover, and reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Remove lid, and continue to simmer uncovered for 1-2 hours, or until the beans have become tender - stirring occasionally. If the beans begin to dry out, add warm water to the pot.
Remove bay leaves from the pot and discard. Carefully take the ham hock out and place it on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, remove any meat from the ham hock and add the meat back to the pot. Discard the skin and bones. Remove 1 cup of red beans and mash into a paste, then return mashed beans to the pot. Season the beans with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper and let the pot simmer for additional 30 minutes. The consistency of the beans should thicken up and become creamy the longer it simmers. If they become too dry, add 1-2 cups of more water.
Optional step: add ½-stick of non-salted butter, or 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, about 5 minutes before serving. This will make the beans extra creamy and rich in flavor. Be sure that the butter is warmed. A cold stick of butter will not melt properly and give off the creamy texture needed.
Serve the red beans over steamed long grain white rice. Garnish with chopped green onions and offer more Crystal's Hot Sauce at the table. Enjoy!
NOTE: These red beans are on the hotter side. There is an added depth of flavor when the Sautéed Cabbage is added to the plate. The freshness of the cabbage along with the vinegar flavoring it was cooked in really offsets the heat of the red beans and the two complement each other. Here is my recipe for How to Make Sautéed Cabbage.
If you want to add Pickled Pork to the recipe, here is the recipe I use: How to Make Pickled Pork.