|Cajun Red Beans and Rice
Table or kosher salt
1 pound small red beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
4 slices bacon (about 4 ounces), chopped fine (see note)
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
1 celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (see note)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Ground black pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 cups water
8 ounces andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices (see note)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
Basic White Rice (recipe follows)
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
Hot sauce (optional)
Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
Heat bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and almost fully rendered, 5 to 8 minutes. Add onion, green pepper, and celery; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, paprika, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans, broth, and water; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and vigorously simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are just soft and liquid begins to thicken, 45 to 60 minutes.
Stir in sausage and 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar and cook until liquid is thick and beans are fully tender and creamy, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and additional red wine vinegar. Serve over rice, sprinkling with scallions and passing hot sauce separately, if desired. - slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated (January/February 2010)
NOTE: Times are longer at altitude. If you are pressed for time you can "quick-brine" your beans. In step 1, combine the salt, water and beans in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and proceed with the recipe. If you can't find andouille sausage, substitute kielbasa. Tasso can be difficult to find, but if you use it, omit the bacon and paprika in step 2 and cook 4 ounces finely chopped tasso in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes, then proceed with the recipe. In order for the starch from the beans to thicken the cooking liquid, it is important to maintain a vigorous simmer in step 2. The beans can be cooled, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To reheat, add enough water to the beans to thin them slightly.