Red beans and rice is a classic Louisiana dish, traditionally served on Mondays using the ham bone left over from the previous Sunday's ham dinner. Red kidney beans are the most popular choice, but many prefer the milder flavored small red beans in the dish.
Similar regional dishes include the Cuban black beans and rice, or "Moors and Christians," limping Susan, a dish of red beans and okra or rice, and hoppin' John, which is a combination of black-eyed peas and rice.
According to The New Orleans Cookbook, baked ham should be used rather than country ham or smoked ham. They also recommend pickled pork or salt pork (if using salt pork, eliminate other salts in the recipe).
An excerpt from The Picayune Creole Cookbook:
"In all the ancient homes of New Orleans, and in the colleges and convents, where large numbers of children are sent to be reared to be strong and useful men and women, several times a week there appear on the table either the nicely cooked dish of Red Beans, which are eaten with rice, or the equally wholesome White Beans a la Creme, or Red or White beans boiled with a piece of salt pork or ham."
-The Picayune Creole Cookbook, 1900
Some other regional dishes to try: French Quarter beignets, shrimp Creole or etouffee, a hearty gumbo, the oyster po' boy, pecan pralines, and the ever-popular pecan pie.
- Red Beans and Rice with Ham or Salt Pork This dish contains dried red beans and a ham hock or meaty ham bone. The beans simmer to perfection with the ham and chunks of smoked sausage. For a spicy dish, use andouille sausage.
- Louisiana Beans and Rice This is another basic simmered red beans and rice recipe. Use a meaty ham hock or leftover ham bone in the dish.
Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice With Andouille Sausage The beans cook all day while you're away. All you have to do is brown the sausage and add it about an hour before the dish is ready.
- Quick Red Beans and Rice If you don't have time for dried beans, this dish is a great choice. This easy version of the dish includes a tomato-based sauce, some bacon, canned red beans, and the "holy trinity" of Cajun and Creole cooking: onions, celery, and bell pepper.
- Easy Black Beans and Yellow Rice Canned beans make this a tasty and quick dish of black beans. Turmeric adds color and flavor to the rice.
- Pinto Beans and Rice with Sausage Dried pinto beans get fabulous flavor from a combination of ham, sausage, chile peppers, and tomatoes. This combination makes an excellent everyday dinner.
- Southern Red Beans and Rice This favorite family recipe includes plenty of diced smoked sausage. Crushed red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper provide the heat. For milder beans, reduce the amount of cayenne and pepper flakes.
Red Beans and Rice Cooking Tips
- Some people feel that salting the cooking liquid for dried peas and beans tends to slow cooking and toughen the beans and others say hard water, acidic ingredients, or the age of the beans can cause the problem. If you routinely have difficulty with dried beans, try adding the salt (along with any other acidic ingredients) after the beans have become tender.
- Simmer, don't boil. Boiling can cause the liquid to overflow and can cause the beans to break apart and the skins to break off
- For softer beans, cover the cooking pot.
- Test for doneness by tasting. They should feel smooth yet not mushy. Or, gently squeeze a bean between thumb and index finger; if the middle is still rather firm, cook them longer.
- To reduce the risk of flatulence, change the water two times or more during the soaking process and once after the beans have simmered for 30 minutes.
- As soon as beans have cooked, drain the liquid to prevent further cooking (unless the liquid is part of the dish).
- Refrigerate leftover beans for up to 5 days to be used in salads, soups, etc.
- Dry bean yields: 1 pound yields approximately 2 1/2 cups uncooked, or 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups cooked.