Creole & Caribbean Red Beans and Rice

My father’s Creole New Orleans and mother’s Caribbean food ways were based on rice and beans. Here are two of my favorite rice and beans recipes. Both styles have roots in Spanish, French and African traditions.

Creole-Cajun style red beans and rice with andouille sausage.

Only on Mondays: Louisiana Creole red beans and rice was a Monday tradition in our New York home. Ham, bacon and andouille sausage were major ingredients. Only recently did I learned why we ate these beans on Mondays. Turns out, it was all about multitasking. Apparently, Mondays was traditionally laundry day in many Southern homes. My father’s southern relatives taught my mother to keep up this food tradition. For the record, mother did laundry everyday because she ran a home-based daycare center. But, that’s another story. Beans ‘cooked down’ with Sunday’s leftover ham bone does not require much fuss.  Thus, you can wash, iron, fold laundry and cook all at the same time! But the secret to this delicious dish is to get started right after Monday’s breakfast so that the flavors have enough time to deepen in time for dinner. And these beans become tastier as each day passes. Another flavor consideration is how to bake the ham the night before. Did you baste it with a mixture of brown sugar, mustard, pineapple slices and clove? I would. I use whatever is on hand. Substitute ham bone with a ham hock. I only eat brown rice. This dish is traditionally served with white rice. Sometimes we ate these beans in a bowl with a side of cornbread!

Creole Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients:  kidney beans 1 lb., 1 Sunday leftover ham bone or 1 medium smoked ham hock; 1 andouille sausage or 4 slices bacon; 1 tbsp. vegetable oil; trinity—1 chopped medium onion, 3 celery stalks, chopped w/leaves, 1 medium chopped bell pepper; 4 chopped cloves of garlic, 4 whole cloves, 2 Bay leaves, 1 tsp. each parsley, sage, thyme or 4 sprigs of each fresh herb; hot sauce to taste; black pepper to taste, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper; 1 quart water; reserved bean water; 6 cups cooked brown rice.

Directions: wash, sort, and soak beans overnight in 1 quart of water. Reserve the maroon-colored bean water.

In deep heavy skillet or Dutch oven, sauté on medium heat, sausage or bacon slices, trinity, garlic in vegetable oil until translucent. Render fat, oil. Add water, press cloves into meat on hambone or hock; add the drained, soaked beans, herbs, and seasonings. Bring all to boil, half-cover with lid, simmer 4-5 hours. Add bean water sparingly throughout cooking; stir and mash some of the beans to create a thickened, creamy bean broth. Serve over cooked rice.

Note: To shorten the cooking time to 30 minutes, use canned beans, add ‘Cajun’ seasoning to water stock. Keep rest of ingredients.

Caribbean Red Beans and Rice

Although Trinidadian, my mother served Jamaican ‘peas and rice’ often. It is not really ‘peas’ but kidney beans. We ate this sometimes everyday with stir-fried veggies, meats or fish. It is a mild, vegetarian, gluten-free one-pot rice dish that pairs well with all Caribbean and Creole foods.

Caribbean beans and rice.

Ingredients: red beans, 1 lb. cooked; 1 can (13.5oz.) of coconut milk-Goya, Coco Lopez brand, Indian or Thai variety is good; 2 ¼ cups maroon-colored bean water; 2 cups rice; ¼ cup fresh grated coconut (optional) (Do not use bagged grated coconut from bakery aisle!), 1 tsp. vegetable or coconut oil, ½ cup chopped medium onion, 1 chopped scallion, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 whole Scotch Bonnet hot pepper. Do not cut or chop Scotch bonnet pepper. Just leave in pot!

Note: Cooking the beans together with rice in the same pot is an art form. Too much liquid makes mush. Not enough liquid with rice makes a dried out mess. Remember, the beans must be cooked, as above, or use canned beans. I found Basmati or Uncle Ben’s rice is the easiest to cook. Basmati brown rice works very well. Use 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of liquid. Remember that brown rice requires at least ½ cup extra liquid and extra time cooking. You can substitute with pigeon peas, black beans, and black-eye peas.

Directions: Heat oil on medium heat, sauté scallion, onion, garlic, thyme. Add rice, beans, coconut, and liquid. Bring to boil uncovered. Stir in Scotch bonnet pepper, cover and simmer, about 30 minutes or until done.