Haaaay, how y'all doin'? Oh, sorry, I slipped into my N'awlins drawl, you see, because I just spent 4 days down in the Bayou. Every single person I encountered opened with "Haaay, how y'all doin'?" and now it's my favorite way to start a conversation (or, I just throw beads at people and see how they react).
The food in Louisiana was okay. On one hand, I had a mediocre (at best) shrimp po' boy in the French Quarter, a dry-ish vegetarian muffaletta somewhere at 2am, and enough green beer on St. Patrick's Day to stain my tongue emerald.
On the plus side, I had some pretty good seafood gumbo in Baton Rouge, a beignet covered with a mountain of powdered sugar at Cafe du Monde, blackened tuna at Mr. B's Bistro, a killer Sazerac, and lots of coffee with chicory.
It's hard being semi-veg in New Orleans because sausage is everywhere. However, I was too busy drinking to worry about food too much. Now that I'm home and trying to detox the vacation out of me, I realize I didn't get any red beans and rice. Red beans and rice is a traditional Creole dish that's made on Mondays with whatever meat was leftover from the Sunday dinner. I mostly wanted some because of the line in "Baby Got Back" that goes..."gimme a sister can't resist her, red beans and rice didn't miss her."
Even though those lyrics imply that red beans and rice give you a big ass, I made a vegetarian version at home. Without the pork and white rice, it's much healthier!
You have to start any Creole dish with what they call the "Holy Trinity" in New Orleans: onion, celery, bell pepper. Then I added soaked red beans, spices, and chipotle peppers for smokiness. Boil together with stock for an hour and serve with brown rice. It was super spicy (just the way I like it!) but I felt it needed some more fat, so I added half a diced avocado. It was filling and satisfying. The creamy freshly cooked beans absorbed all the spice from the chipotles, and the brown rice gives it a nice nutty balance.
Red Beans and Rice, adapted from What Would Cathy Eat
1 lb bag dried red beans, soaked overnight or boiled for 1 hour
1 medium onion, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 chipotle pepper, chopped (I used 2 plus some adobo sauce but I love the heat)
5.5 cups water or vegetable stock (or combo of the two)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
For serving: cooked brown rice, chopped scallions, diced avocado
In a large pot, saute your onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and carrot in some olive oil until soft (about 5 minutes). Add your soaked beans, bay leaves, oregano, cayenne, chipotles, water or stock, and Worcestershire and boil gently - uncovered - for about 1 hour, or until beans are soft.
Serve with brown rice, scallions, avocado, and more hot sauce if you can take it.
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