Why It Works
- Soaking beans in salted water helps them cook up more tender.
- Multiple cured pork products lend deep flavor to the beans.
New Orleans–style red beans and rice is mind-bendingly delicious. Smoky, spicy, hearty, and supremely comforting. But, for a dish so complex in flavor, the preparation and ingredient list are pretty simple: a few vegetables to start, a handful of common pantry spices, a couple of fresh herbs, some chunks of pork, some sausage, and some red kidney beans.
- 1 pound (450g) red kidney beans
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil or lard
- 1 pound (about 450g) cooked andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch disks
- 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 12 ounces; 340g)
- 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)
- 4 ribs celery, finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (3 to 15g) ground cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
- 1 teaspoon (about 4g) ground sage
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 smoked ham hock (optional)
- 8 ounces (225g) pickled pork shoulder or rind (optional; see note)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- Hot sauce, such as Crystal or Frank's, to taste
- Cider vinegar, to taste (optional; see note)
- Cooked white rice, for serving
Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 6 cups (1.5L) cold water. Add 2 tablespoons (30g) kosher salt and stir until dissolved. Set aside at room temperature for 8 to 16 hours. Drain and rinse.
In a large Dutch oven, heat oil or lard over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add andouille and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Season with salt and cook, stirring, until vegetables have softened and are just starting to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add cayenne pepper, sage, and a generous 10 to 12 grinds of fresh black pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans, along with enough water to cover by about 2 inches (roughly 6 to 8 cups), ham hock (if using), pickled pork (if using), thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce to a bare simmer. Cover and cook until beans are completely tender, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. (Older beans can take longer.)
Remove lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened and turned creamy, about 20 minutes. If the pot starts to look dry before the stew turns creamy, add a cup of water and continue simmering. Repeat as necessary until desired level of creaminess is achieved. Discard bay leaves and thyme stems. Season to taste with hot sauce, a few teaspoons of cider vinegar (if using), and more salt and pepper. For best texture, let cool and refrigerate overnight. Reheat the next day, adding a little water to loosen to desired consistency. Serve red beans over steamed white rice.
Pickled pork can be difficult to find, and the beans can easily be made without it. If you're omitting the pickled pork, a small splash of cider vinegar can help brighten up the flavor of the beans, but is not completely necessary. Add it to suit your own taste.