Food & Drink

Red beans and rice are perfect for tailgating, parading or a Mardi Gras party

Red Beans and Rice make a great Mardi Gras party dish.
Red Beans and Rice make a great Mardi Gras party dish. TNS

Seasoning and soaking are secrets to a “put-your-foot-in-it” pot of red beans, which is one of the staples of Carnival season.

Whether tailgating on the parade route or at a Mardi Gras party, a pot of steaming red beans is a must-have. A pot of beans also is good for watching the Super Bowl — no muss, not much fuss.

To make the pot “right” takes soaking the beans so they will be more tender and adding just the right amount of seasoning, not too spicy, not too bland.

The folks at Camellia Brand suggest three methods of soaking the beans: a quick 1-hour soak, a 3-hour hot soak and an 8-hour or overnight soak (my preferred method).

Quick soak: Bring 10 cups of water to a boil and add 1 pound of beans. Return to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with lid and let sit for an hour in the water. Drain and rinse beans. Could also continue cooking in the soaking liquid.

Three-hour soak: Bring 10 cups of water to a stockpot, add beans and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 2 to 3 hours. Drain and rinse beans or continuing cooking in liquid.

Overnight soak (easiest method): Cover beans with 10 cups of water in stockpot or large bowl. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans.

As for the seasoning, just like making gumbo, cooks start with the trinity of Louisiana cooking — bell pepper, celery and onion. Don’t forget the garlic. To the trinity, add spices and herbs. Bay leaves are usually included. Other cooks add oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and cayenne pepper. Meats such as sausage, pickled pork, smoked ham or wild game are used, but the beans do not have to include meat.

If going vegetarian with red beans and rice, rev up the spices and herbs to replace the flavor of the meats. A bit of liquid smoke can help, too.

Once beans are done, guests can make the beans as spicy as they like with pepper sauces.

Several years ago, Anne Sharpton of Gautier shared her Lazy-Day Red Beans and Rice recipe. It makes quick work of the pot of beans.

Now, being one who likes spicy foods, I add a poblano pepper to my beans and some Tony Chachere’s seasoning. This isn’t hot, but just flavorful. I share my recipe today, too.

Mardi Gras or Super Bowl snacking

The chefs at Olive Garden share the ingredients for their new appetizer, loaded pasta chips. Lasagna noodles become the base for this Italian nacho, instead of tortilla chips. The crisp, lightly fried pasta chips are topped with cheeses, meat sauce with chicken, meatballs or sausage, cherry peppers and an Alfredo drizzle.

Pickled beets and eggs

Last week, a former colleague wanted to know more about beets, how to cook them and how to make them taste good. Long Beach’s Helen Hlass sent her favorite pickled egg recipe that uses beets and canned beet juice.

Readers, please send in your favorite beet recipe and any information that you may have about the health properties of beets.

“Pickled eggs sliced on top of leafy salads look colorful, and taste good,” Hlass said. “Eggs keep for at least two weeks. The recipe can be doubled if desired, using 12 eggs instead of 6.”

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

Lazy-Day Red Bans and Rice

1 can Blue Runner Creole red beans, hot or mild, your choice

1 can Bush’s red beans, not kidney beans

1 package kielbasa or Conecuh sausage cut in bite-size slices

Cooked rice (see note)

While rice is cooking, combine the beans and sausage in a saucepan. Simmer until thoroughly heated and slightly thickened. Serves 4. May be doubled if needed.

Note: Some folks think cooking rice is difficult; they either make it too gummy or too raw. White rice is cooked at a 2-to-1-ratio, 2 cups of water to 1 cup rice. Bring the 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rice, 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt to a boil in saucepan, turn heat to low and cover pan. Let rice cook 15 minutes more. Rice should be fluffy and cooked just right.

Submitted by Ann Sharpton

Red Beans

1 package Camellia or Blue Runner dried red beans

3 cups of chicken broth (could use vegetable broth)

Water to cover beans

1 large onion, chopped fine

4-5 cloves minced garlic

1/4 to 1/2 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped fine (amount depends

on how hot the pepper is)

Salt, pepper to taste

Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning; I use about 1 tablespoon, but

season to taste (use what works for your palate)

1 pound of good smoked sausage

Soak red beans in water overnight. Drain and rinse. Place in slow cooker. Mix in chopped onion, poblano pepper, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper. Add broth. If beans are not covered by the broth, add water to cover the beans.

Cut sausage in bite-size pieces and brown in skillet to let grease cook out and to enhance flavor. Stir into red beans. Set slow cooker on low and let cook all day, about 8 to 10 hours.

After beans are done, take some of the beans out and mash them in a paste and add back to the pot to thicken the beans. If you like soupier beans, do not mash. Just serve over rice. Again, I like to serve cheese an chopped green onions as toppings for the beans. My daughter tops hers with sour cream.

Pasta Chips

Stack lasagna noodle sheets on a cutting board. Cut each sheet into 3 equal pieces.

Heat oil into a pan and gradually add chips to the oil; fry until crispy.

Transfer cooked chips to basket and allow the excess oil to drain for 1 minute. Gently toss cooked chips in garlic salt to coat. Add your favorite toppings.

Olive Garden

Pickled Eggs

6 hard-boiled and peeled eggs

Canned sliced beets

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup vinegar

Juice from 1 can sliced beets

Hard boil 6 eggs, and peel eggs. Mix beet juice from the can with vinegar and sugar. Shake vinegar, sugar and canned beet juice.

Pour mixture over chopped beets and 6 hard-boiled eggs (or fewer eggs). Add slivered beets on top. Shake beet juice mixture, beets and eggs in plastic container with top. Eggs should be covered. One can enjoy the eggs the next day.

Submitted by Helen Hlass

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