Tag Archives: Cajun cooking

RED BEANS AND RICE

Whenever our children visit us with their families, as they did this Christmas season, we try to make old favorites from their childhood. Often the food is drawn from the Southwest, but all three of them grew up in Louisiana, so Cajun and Creole dishes are high on the list of favorites. Gumbo is popular, and boiled crawfish in the spring is almost required. Bread pudding and shrimp creole are also on the list, along with red beans and rice.

For as long as anyone can remember, Monday has been laundry day in New Orleans. For as long as anyone can remember, red beans and rice has been the standard Monday supper in New Orleans because it can be started when the wash is started, stirred from time to time during the day, and finished when everyone is ready to gather around the table in the evening. We didn’t live in New Orleans, but the custom is common throughout the entire state of Louisiana.

An essential part of the dish is the meat that is used in the red beans. Traditionally a ham hock is tossed in – mostly for flavor – but also for the morsels of ham that are closest to the bone. Andouille sausage is popular as is Tasso ham. Sometimes you will see whole pork chops swimming in the stew. For this version, I chose boneless pork loin which gives good flavor and tenderness without bones. The chunks of pork fit perfectly on the fork and make a single melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Usually red beans and rice have the spiciness that is famous in Cajun and Creole cooking, but because one of our family members has severe reactions to hot spices, we make it without red pepper or chiles. Not to worry, because it is easy to add your preferred level of hotness at the table with Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce.

 

RECIPE

Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry small red beans
  • water to cover the beans for cooking
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ¾ inch cubes
  • 1 bunch green scallions including green stems, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves or ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Louisiana hot sauce to taste
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed in a fine sieve with cold water
  • 1½ cups water

Method

  • Pour the beans into a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a ver slow boil. Cover and cook the beans for 1½ to 2 hours or until they are tender. Stir the bottom occasionally and add more water if needed.
  • When the beans are tender, transfer them and the cooking liquid to a large bowl Rinse and dry the pot. Then return the pot to a medium flame and add the olive oil.
  • When the olive oil is just shimmering, add the chopped onions, lower the heat and cover so that the onions “sweat” (become soft and translucent and give up some of their moisture). Do not let them brown.
  • Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium and stir in the celery, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are throughly wilted. Then transfer them and their juices to a plate.
  • Return the pot to the stove. Add the cubes of pork and brown them. Use more oil if needed.
  • When the meat is evenly browned, return the beans and their liquid, along with the vegetables, and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the scallions, bay leaves, and thyme.
  • Simmer the mixture, covered, for an additional hour. Adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper and, if desired, hot sauce. Remove the bay leaves
  • While the red beans are cooking, prepare the rice by combining the rice and water in a small covered pot. Bring to the boil. Stir. Cover and reduce the flame to very low. Do not remove the cover, but cook for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. The water should be completely absorbed, and the rice should be fluffy with individual grains.
  • Serve by placing a scoop of rice in the middle of a wide-mouthed bowl. Top with the red bean mixture, and serve with additional hot sauce.

Should serve 6 to 8

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CRABMEAT TECHE

Bayou Teche is one of the most important waterways in Louisiana. It is an ancient riverbed of the Mississippi River before it changed its flow several thousand years ago. Bayou Teche runs over a hundred miles before it empties into the Atchafalaya River, another former route of the Mississippi. The bayou served as the watery route of entry for the Acadians from Canada during their forced migration into Louisiana. The bayou flows through the heart of Cajun country, including some of its most famous towns and cities. Breaux Bridge is well-known for its zydeco, dance halls, and crawfish. St. Martinville is quaint and home to great Cajun food. New Iberia is close by Avery Island, the home of the famous Tabasco Sauce.  So, with a name like “Crabmeat Teche,” this dish must be pure Cajun.

The original recipe comes from the classic, “River Road Recipes” first published by the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Junior League in 1959 and self-described as “The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine”. Many of the recipes reflect the times, calling for canned mushroom soup, flavored gelatin, and lots of convenience foods. At the same time the book is a trove of honest-to-goodness Louisiana recipes, and for that reason you can usually find a copy of the cookbook in most Louisiana homes you visit.

The recipe for Crabmeat Teche was contributed  by Mrs. Roy Dabadie. I guess she lived in Baton Rouge at the time, but with a name like that, I shouldn’t be surprised if she originally hailed from someplace along the Bayou Teche. The  recipe used some of the convenience foods of the time, so I have made some small revisions. Nonetheless crabmeat Teche is still a 1950s casserole, but it tastes a lot better than tuna noodle bake.

Baked crabmeat Teche casserole

You’ll need a fresh vegetable to complement the casserole. I made a simple salad to go with it: sliced seasonal tomatoes, sprinkled with chopped fresh basil, coarsely-grated mozzarella cheese and your favorite vinaigrette.  It seemed to be an ideal foil for the rich casserole.

Caprese salad

RECIPE

Crabmeat Teche

Ingredients

  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 4 slices very dry toast (dry enough to crumble easily)
  • 3 cups fish stock or chicken stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, pulverized between your hands
  • Louisiana hot sauce, to taste
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound can crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • ¾ cup cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • paprika

Crabmeat Teche

Method

  • In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sauté pepper, onions, celery, mushrooms, and garlic in bacon drippings until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, crumble the dry toast in 1½ cups of fish stock. When the stock is completely absorbed and the toast crumbs have softened, add them to the skillet along with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, celery salt, and oregano. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently until well combined. Adjust flavoring with hot sauce to taste.
  • Add the parsley and remaining 1½ cups of fish stock, stirring until well combined.
  • Add crabmeat, and mix thoroughly. Then pour the mixture into a well-buttered casserole.
  • Sprinkle the  top with cracker crumbs, dot with butter, and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Bake  for 20-30 minutes at 350° in the middle of a pre-heated oven. IF casserole is made ahead and refrigerated, increase baking time to 45-60 minutes.

Serving of crabmeate Teche with caprese salad

Serves 4 to 8, depending upon serving size

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