Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cajun Red Beans & Rice

Article first published as Cajun Red Beans & Rice on Blogcritics.

A popular saying at our house is, 'It isn't a meal unless there's rice.' I'm not sure how it came about but because we're such a rice loving family, we're thankful that there's always some kind of rice dish we can incorporate into our meals. For our Low Country Boil, the appropriate rice dish to serve would be this Cajun Red Beans & Rice. Smoked sausage, red beans and the holy 'trinity' of onions, peppers and celery turn plain old rice into a flavorful side dish that can even work well as a main dish too...

When making this dish, I was especially excited to have a reason to purchase a ham hock. This isn't a common ingredient in my kitchen but when I do use it, I know that it will impart some serious flavor in the dish I'm making it in. This recipe was no exception. We really enjoyed this dish because of the flavor it had. Aside from the sausage and the 'holy trinity' of onions, bell peppers and celery, the ham hock gave this a slight smokiness and depth of flavor. You can certainly make the dish without it (if it's an ingredient not commonly found at your local grocery store or butcher) but if omitted, you'll miss out on that special something that makes this dish so delicious.

Cajun Red Beans & Rice
recipe adapted from Closet Cooking

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 pound beef smoked sausage, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (
4 cups chicken stock
2 (19 ounce) cans red beans (rinsed and drained)
1 ham hock
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups cooked rice

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.

Add the sausage and saute until lightly golden brown, about 5-7 minutes, and set aside.

Add the onions, celery and green pepper to the pan and cook until tender, about 7-10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the stock, beans, ham hock, paprika, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 1-3 hours (You'll want the ham hock to be tender and any meat to fall off the bone).

Remove the ham hock, pull the meat from it, cut it into bite sized pieces and add it back to the pot if desired.

Add the rice to fully combine and serve.

For a freezer meal: Freeze the rice and the red bean/ham hock mixture separately and then warm up & combine when you're ready to serve. You can also wait to make the rice when you're ready to serve rather than freezing.