Red Beans and (Black) Rice
1 c. uncooked black rice (a.k.a. Chinese "Forbidden Rice" )
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. yellow onion, peeled and finely diced (about 1/2 medium-sized onion)
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 2 large cloves)
1/2 c. celery, finely chopped (about 2 celery stalks)
1 large bay leaf
4 c. water
1 15.5 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. green bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 tsp. (or more) cayenne pepper sauce (optional) (for authenticity, use the Crystal brand, which Louisianans swear by)*
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Creole Spice Mix Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
3/8 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (or substitute 1/8 tsp. ground chipotle pepper, if you prefer a smoky flavor)**
Directions: Combine Creole spice mix ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. Set aside. Heat olive oil on high heat in a large stock pot until glistening. Reduce heat to low, then add the uncooked rice and brown for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the rice is completely coated with the olive oil. Let rice crisp but do not burn. (Crisping the rice seals its exterior to keep it from getting mushy when the water is added.) Then add onions, garlic, celery, and bay leaf, and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add water (it should sizzle when it hits the pan), then stir in kidney beans, green bell peppers, hot sauce (if using), and spice mix. Thoroughly combine ingredients. Turn up heat to high and bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to low again, quickly cover pot with a tightly fitting lid, and simmer for 40 minutes. IMPORTANT: To perfectly cook the rice and maximize its fluffiness, do NOT, under any circumstances, lift the lid and peek at the rice while it's cooking. Only after the 40 minutes is up should you check the rice to see if it's ready. If necessary, use a clear (glass lid) so that won't be tempted to peek. :) When rice is done, remove from heat. At this point, the water should be fully absorbed and all of the rice grains should've split open. Rice should be fluffy, not dry or sauce-like. If grains are still hard and haven't yet split, add another 2 cups of water and cook for another 15-20 minutes or so. Allow rice to steam, uncovered and undisturbed, for 5-10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Gently fluff with a fork. (For a more authentic consistency, you can mash the beans with a fork.) Garnish with parsley and serve hot.
Yield: 3-4 servings.
Chef's Notes: *Tabasco sauce or other hot pepper sauce can be substituted for the cayenne pepper sauce in a pinch.
**Chipotle pepper can be used as a substitute for the smoky flavor that would typically be provided by porcine products. :)
Please note: If you're going to use dried red (kidney) beans instead, you'll have measure out about 1/2 lb. dried beans, and then soak them overnight in a large bowl of water. (The ratio of water to beans should be 2:1.) They'll also need to be boiled in water for about 2-3 hours (!) to soften them before combining them with the other ingredients. And this, my friends, is why my recipe calls for canned beans. :)
Also, avoid using stale dried beans, because they either won't disintegrate or will take a lifetime to do so. I realize that the expression, "stale dried beans" might seem like an oxymoron, but even dried beans can get stale to the point of being über-rock-hard and unusable. (Plus, they'll be completely unpalatable as well.) The hallmark of well-made red beans and rice is a nice thick sauce-like consistency, and the beans need to be broken down as they're cooked in order to achieve this. If your beans don't break down, you can always use an emulsion blender, or mash the beans and add them back to the pot, but of course, it's easier to just use dried beans that haven't been in your kitchen pantry for ten eons. :)
If you're going for a super authentic end product, go with Camellia red (kidney) beans, a popular new Orleans brand used for this dish. Southerners will obviously have more luck finding this brand locally. However, this product can be ordered online , directly from their company website . However, when you factor in shipping, it actually costs less to order them directly from Amazon.com . To ship a 1 lb. bag, which costs $2.49, Camellia's site charges $10.20! For the same 1 lb. bag at a more or less comparable price, one Amazon third-party vendor charges $6.20. (Third party vendors aren't eligible for free shipping using Amazon Prime.) However, the best deal is to buy directly from Amazon.com, so you can use Amazon Prime. The only option I saw was to order 6 2-lb. bags for $20.70. Of course, when you buy in bulk, the unit price is less expensive, at 11¢ per oz., as compared to 18¢ per oz. if you were to buy a 1 lb. bag from the aforementioned third-party Amazon.com vendor. Then again, if you buy 6 2-lb. bags, you'll have to make a lot of dishes using red beans. :) However, dried beans will keep for a long while, so it's not like they'll be spoiling anytime soon.
Alternate cooking methods: You can also make this recipe in a slow cooker (i.e., a crock pot). Since I haven't yet made it this way, I'm not going to provide precise instructions at present, although I guestimate that the process will take somewhere around 6-8 hours on low heat and about 3-4 hours on high heat, in order to fully cook the dish in this manner. (In general, when you're cooking rice in a slow cooker, just remember that the harder the grain of rice that you use, the longer it will take to cook. For example, white rice will cook faster than brown or black, which have a tough outer hull, and therefore take longer to cook) Also, the order that you add the ingredients during cooking would be very similar. At some point, I'll try using a slow cooker, and will then update the instructions at that point.