Dried beans are just about the least sexy ingredient in the grocery store.
By nature, they are tough to crack, but as a nutritious and super inexpensive source of protein, it’s worth knowing how to make them well.
My column today is all about how to make better beans at home, and my legumru (get it? legume guru?) was my friend Chasity, who used to make the red beans at Gene’s Po’Boys.
She likes to make red beans on Mondays, just like she used to do at Gene’s, because they require essentially four ingredients: red beans, sausage, onion and green bell pepper. Soak the beans over night, saute the meat and aromatics, combine, simmer and serve.
A quick note about cornbread: You might have strong feelings for or against whether you serve red beans with rice or cornbread, but for Chasity, she almost always serves them with Jiffy cornbread.
I recently fell for Homestead Gristmill’s stone-ground cornbread mix, from the Waco-based Homestead Heritage company. I’ve had too many cornbread failures to count, mostly for trying to make it with all cornmeal and no flour or coarsely ground cornmeal that tastes like grit from the driveway.
Homestead’s mix produced the softest, lightest cornbread I’ve ever tasted, though in retrospect, I should have added a tablespoon of sugar to suit my Yankee taste buds. You can buy the mix ($4.50) at the Monument Market in Georgetown or online at homesteadheritage.com.
Here’s Chasity’s recipe for red beans a’la Gene’s. (You can find black bean and borracho bean recipes with the full story over on MyStatesman.)
What you decide to serve them with is up to you.
Red Beans and Sausage
1 (16-oz.) bag dried red beans
4 links smoked sausage, quartered and sliced
1 small white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. sugar
Soak the beans in a pot of water overnight or at least six hours. Drain the water and pick out any shriveled beans or rocks you find.
Cover the beans with an inch of water and bring to a boil. Cook on medium high until soft, about two hours, adding water as needed to keep them just covered.
While the beans are cooking, saute the sausage pieces in a skillet over medium high heat. As the fat starts to render, add the onion and bell pepper. After the beans are soft, add the sausage, onion and pepper mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Continue cooking the beans, adding water as needed, and stirring often for one to two hours. Add the sugar, stir well and serve with rice and/or cornbread and additional grilled sausages, if desired. Serves 6.
— Adapted from a recipe by Chasity Gordon