Andrea Maunder, locovore, wine expert and pastry chef, is the owner and creative force behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine.

Slow & Tasty

Red beans and rice is a beloved traditional Louisiana Creole dish. These ain’t no boring beans. Intensely flavourful and beautifully balanced from spice, smoke and that lovely umami quality that comes from using different kinds of cured meats, red beans and rice is really more about the harmony of flavours and textures than the simple bean dish the name might imply.

While the combination of meaty ingredients varies from cook to cook, and probably from what might be on hand, the dish is typically made with unique southern US ingredients such as tasso ham (which has a firm texture and a flavour that is spicy, a little sweet and smoky), andouille sausage (doublesmoked and redolent with garlic and cayenne) and, interestingly, pickled pork. Since it’s difficult to get tasso and andouille in our neck of the woods, I have made substitutions in pork products and adaptations to the seasonings to achieve a pretty authentic flavour.

To replace the pickled pork, I used good old Newfoundland pickled/salt pork riblets.  They need to be soaked in water overnight to remove some of the salt; otherwise, your beans will be too salty.

If you don’t have time for the soak, replace the riblets with about 6 oz of chopped pancetta or lightly smoked bacon, added to the pan when you sauté the vegetables. I replaced the andouille with spicy chorizo. If you can’t find chorizo, use spicy Italian sausage and sauté it with the vegetables. Any cooked ham can replace the tasso. If you can, soak the beans in water overnight and drain before using. Or use my quick-soak method: cover the beans with water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and steep 20 minutes, drain and proceed with recipe.

While I used a slow cooker, you could instead start the whole dish in a large heavy-bottomed pot on the stovetop, adding ingredients as below. Cover and simmer, stirring every 20 minutes or so and adding water as needed for about 2½ hours.

The dish is done when the beans are fully cooked, very tender and creamy and some of them are starting to break down, creating a gorgeous, thick sauce.

Slow Cooker Creole Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 lb red kidney or pinto beans, drained, soaked & drained again 
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 ribs 
  • celery, 1/4-inch dice 
  • 1 medium onion, diced 
  • 1 small green pepper, diced 
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 4 bay leaves 
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dry 
  • 1 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1/2 tsp dry basil 
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano 
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne 
  • 1 tsp chipotle flakes or 1/2 tsp chipotle powder 
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika 1 tsp chili powder 
  • 1/2 lb chorizo sausage, 1/2-inch dice (or spicy Italian sausage) 
  • 2 cups cooked smoked ham, cubed 
  • 1 lb pickled (or salt) pork riblets soaked in water overnight (or sub   stitute with pancetta or bacon)
  • 1/2 cup white wine 
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar 
  • 7-8 cups boiling water Hot sauce to taste

Salt and pepper to taste (you may   not need salt since the pork   riblet, pancetta or bacon are quite   salty; add salt at the end if needed) Steamed rice, enough to match   servings required Fresh chopped parsley to garnish Turn on slow cooker to high. Boil a kettle of water. Heat oil and butter in a large frypan (or large pot if you are doing stovetop method). Sauté vegetables with herbs and spices until softened slightly. Add chorizo (and pancetta or bacon, if using) and ham, sauté a few minutes more; dump all in slow cooker with riblets (if using). Add wine to hot frypan and scrape up any flavourful bits from bottom of pan while the wine bubbles. Add the vinegar and transfer liquids to slow cooker. Add beans, top with boiling water to an inch above the beans. Cook on high 2 ½ to 3 hours, adding water as necessary. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems and discard. Remove riblets, take meat off bones and shred, return to pot. (Or if you’d like to make this overnight or while you are away at work, add cold water instead of boiling, set slow cooker to low setting and let it cook for 8 hours.) Check seasoning and add salt or hot sauce if needed. The dish should be a little saucy, so add water if needed. If too liquidy, remove lid and let simmer a little longer to evaporate a bit of the liquid.

Serve atop steamed rice and garnish with a little parsley. Have hot sauce on the table for those who like it spicy. I like my red beans with brown rice cooked with a few bay leaves and finished with a couple pats of butter. I love the extra nutrition and nutty flavour of brown rice. 

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