This is how I make mine, based on Mom's recipe. Which isn't really a recipe, but a set of loose instructions. No measurements required, because everything is to taste. You will need:
- A stew pot (and/or Crock Pot, if you want)
- A package of dry red beans
- Some white rice (I never substitute brown for this, it just wouldn't be the same)
- A large onion, finely chopped - you could also add celery and bell pepper if you have them on hand, to make the trinity - I'm not a big celery fan, and Shayne doesn't care for bell pepper, so I don't usually have those on short notice.
- Some minced garlic - fresh if you want, I just use the jarred stuff.
- Spices - any/as much as you want of the following: salt, pepper (I use both black and white), Tony's (or your favorite Cajun seasoning mix), cayenne, bay leaf, thyme, oregano.
- Sausage - any kind of hot or mild smoked sausage, andouille, or I guess even a hambone, which was the traditional meat in red beans, but who ever has a hambone lying around anymore? Honestly.
I use half a package of beans at a time, but I can't remember if I get the 1 lb. or 2 lb. bags...ugh. I guess a good rule of thumb would be just cover the bottom of the stew pot with beans until you think to yourself, "Cool, that looks like enough beans."
The best prep method for all this is to pour the beans into the pot the night before, cover them with water, put the lid on the pot and go to bed. The next morning, rinse your beans and add fresh water before cooking. Soaking the beans overnight helps them soften and split, and it also takes some of the gassy properties out of the beans. Yes, you will want that.
If you forget to do that or don't have time, you can use the quick and dirty method - pour the beans into the pot, cover them with water, and bring the pot to a boil on the stovetop. When it just boils, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let it sit for an hour or so. The beans will soften and split that way, too.
Okay, your beans are ready. Are you going to cook them on the stovetop or in the Crock Pot? Will you be home all day puttering around the house and can keep an eye on the stove? Okay! Drain and rinse the beans, then cover them with fresh water in the pot. Bring them to a low boil on the stovetop. You can start chopping your onions/trinity now and maybe slice and fry your sausage up in a skillet, too. When the sausage is cooked, remove it from the skillet and drain it on a paper towel. Leave any sausage grease in the skillet, and sautee your onions and garlic in there until the onion is tender and translucent. Add the vegetables and sausage to the beans. Throw in some salt, pepper, Tony's and a bay leaf or two. Continue to cook them at a nice hot simmer for several hours (2-4 hours, I guess, something like that). Stir them every now and then from the bottom, so they don't stick, and keep an eye on the water level. If it gets too low, add a little more water. There's no need to cover the pot for any of this. Oh, also check your seasonings. Taste and adjust, taste and adjust until you are happy with the flavor. I usually wait until the last hour of cooking to add the thyme and oregano, and I only add a little bit at a time, because a little dab will do ya. Since you're hanging out at home, you can make your pot of rice anytime. And cornbread! You should make some cornbread, too, right?
Oh, you have to work today, but you want some beans for dinner? Can do. Add the beans to a Crock Pot and cover them with water. Chop your onion/trinity and throw it in raw, with some garlic, salt, peppper, Tony's and a bay leaf. If you want to add sausage now, fry it and drain it very well first...but I find slow cooking the sausage gives it a spongy texture I don't love. I save the sausage for later. Turn the Crock Pot on to a nice long, low setting (mine is Low - 10 Hours), and go to work. When you come home, check the water level. It's probably going to be soupier than you want, but that's okay. Ladle and pour the whole thing back into a big stew pot and stick it on the stove. Bring it to a low boil/healthy simmer to cook it down while you make the rice, mix the cornbread, fry the sausage, whatever. You can add the sausage in now if you didn't before, and taste it for seasoning. This is when I add the thyme and oregano and whatnot. Taste and adjust, taste and adjust.
The finished beans should be soft with a creamy texture, and all the veggies and spices should meld together indistinguishably. Serve over rice, with cornbread! And you know, I could learn to make cornbread from scratch, in a cast iron pan, with bacon grease or lard or whatever the traditional way is, and I am positive I wouldn't like it half as much as I love Jiffy corn muffins. *Tilt head* *Smile at camera*
My favorite thing about red beans and rice is how much better it is the next day. To reheat, just add a little water (not much) and stir it around on the stove. It will be much creamier the next day and the flavors have had more time to all melt together more...more awesomerly.
Before I go, I do need to tell you about one more thing I did last night. I put about half a cup of frozen blackberries (this is a thing with me, I guess) in a mug, defrosted them in the microwave (1 min. on defrost setting), then heated them up for about 30 more seconds so they got all warm and juicy and gooey. Then I scooped some vanilla ice cream directly into the mug and ate it with a spoon. That's all I did, but it was like THE BEST present to myself.