“I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more enjoyable.” – Charles Swindoll
Cindy is a dear friend of mine. In addition to her numerous talents, she is an amazing cook. This red beans and rice recipe is one of the many dishes the boys and I had the pleasure of enjoying – compliments of Cindy. The following passage from my unpublished memoir, Comfort Food, provides a glimpse of what makes Cindy so special.
“Cindy is originally from Louisiana. She is a die-hard LSU fan, a wonderful hostess, and our authority on all things southern. Cindy lived in New Orleans, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Australia, London and returned to Pittsburgh. Everywhere she goes, she embraces the culture and community. I am certain Cindy has been to more places in Pittsburgh than I, and I have lived here all my life. She is a master at assimilating into new places. Cindy will find a book club, take a watercolor class, enroll in multiple cooking classes, find the best restaurants, get involved in her children’s school and volunteer at church. Before you know it, she has a wide circle of friends and a full social calendar…Cindy is a generous, warm and caring friend. How lucky I am to be one of her ‘Yankee’ friends.”
Cindy’s red beans and rice is a special treat. Tap into your “inner Cajun” and give it a try.
“Typically served on Mondays in South Louisiana – this was wash day – and the red beans took a long time to cook, so it was a perfect dish for Mondays. The vegetables in this recipe: celery, bell pepper and onions are considered the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Cajun cooking and are used in many dishes in South Louisiana.” – Cindy
1 pound dry red kidney beans
1 large ham shank (or substitute smoked ham hocks)
2 cups each chopped celery, onions, and green bell peppers
2 bay leaves 2 tsp white pepper
2 tsp thyme leaves 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1½ tsp oregano ½ tsp black pepper
½ to 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 pound skinless smoked sausage or kielbasa, sliced diagonally – about ½ to ¾ inch diagonal pieces
3 – 4 cups cooked rice to accompany
Cover the beans with water and let soak overnight. Drain before using. Cover ham shank with water to 2 inches below top of 6 qt. pan. Add celery, onions, bell peppers and seasonings. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat; simmer until meat is fork tender, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove ham from pan and set aside.
Add beans to water (have water about two inches from the top) and simmer for 2 hours. Stir beans occasionally. You want the beans to cook down, to become thick, tender, but not burn at the bottom of the pan. During this time, you can pull apart the ham shank and add to pan. Continue to stir occasionally; the cooking time depends on how high you cook the beans. If you do scorch the beans on the bottom (I have many times), just transfer them to another pan and don’t ‘dig too deep’ when transferring.
Add sliced sausage to red beans and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve over steamed rice. Increase cayenne pepper or add Tabasco sauce if desired. Adding liquid smoke in the last 30 minutes may also bring a nice flavor.