Happy Mardi Gras! Maybe next year I can convince Rochester to hold a second line parade on this important New Orleans feast day. Otherwise I gotta get me back to my Mondo Kayo. A wonderful friend sent me a post card with a quotation from Chris Rose on what Mardi Gras means…
…”It is annual front porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace; it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to people whose names you may or may not even know but you’ve watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they’re not there, you wonder; it is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military boys and girls when they crisply snap to. .. it’s mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the ‘88s until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Mardi Gras Indians under Claiborne overpass… it’s wearing frightful color combinations in public. Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living, All at once.”
And, it is contagious. Once a New Orleanian, you never cease to take the spirit of Mardi Gras with you into whatever corners of the world may find you. I know this is a humdrum Tuesday for most the rest of the country, but no’mm-mm, not for me. Today is holy.
Love. Peace. And Barbeque.
Red Beans and Rice
1 lb. dried small red beans (kidney beans), rinsed and soaked in water overnight, unless you don’t want to—you can just cook the whole thing longer—matter of preference.
2 smoked ham hocks
2 tbsp olive oil (or bacon grease, what have you)
2 onions, diced
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded, and diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 tsp. minced garlic
3 whole bay leaves
2 tbsp basil
2 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp thyme
2 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 green onions, chopped
5 cups cooked rice, brown is better for you
Cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce, optional
Heat onions, green peppers, garlic, and celery on a skillet in olive oil, ten minutes or so, until soft. Add this mix to a crockpot, with red beans, ham hocks, and bay leaves. In a small bowl, combine the spices and add 4 tbsp of the spice mix to the crockpot. Cover the mixture with water (about 2-3 quarts) and turn on the crock pot to High. Stir periodically and add water if needed to keep the beans covered. Cook for as long as you want… but keep tasting and add more spice mix if you would like. After several hours, remove the ham hocks, put some of the meat back in the pot if you would like. Remove once cup of beans from the pot and mash them until creamy—add them back to the pot for additional creaminess if desired. Remove the cover for the final 30-60 minutes, or until the sauce is the thickness you prefer. Serve over rice and sprinkle with green onions. Assemble your spices and marvel at the confetti of it all.
In the same pot, cook the bacon until crisp, and remove to the dish with the other meats. Cook the andouille slices until browned, and add to the bacon, etc. In the bacon fat, sauté the onion, bell pepper and celery until softened. Add the garlic, oregano and thyme, and stir for a minute or so. Stir in the reserved 6 cups of liquid, the beans, bay leaves and Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the beans are tender and the liquid is beginning to thicken. This may take anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on whether or not you soaked the beans overnight. Remove the cover and simmer until thickened, probably another 30 minutes.
Stir in the turkey, ham, bacon and sausage. Taste and add salt, pepper, more Cajun seasoning, Tabasco and/or cayenne as desired. Heat the meat through and serve over hot fluffy white rice.
Oven method: If desired, once the beans and seasonings are added, the pot may be covered and cooked in a 300° oven instead of on the stovetop. Remove the cover for the last half hour, and then add meat, etc. as above.
I would love to know who put the bead-bestrewn monkey on my front door. I’ll give you a prize if you fess up.