Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Red Beans & Rice - an American Odyssey


This is not a recipe blog.  However, I spent a goodly while in Britain over the past few months, as this blog bears out.  I wrote about my favorite British regiments, observed Empire Day, did some hypothetical casting for a movie about Brits, celebrated an English saint and reflected upon a British philosopher of history.  A raging Anglophile I may be, but all this talk of Britain got me a little concerned.  Am I not American?  Is everything simply better over there?  Does America have nothing I want to celebrate?

As these questions rolled around in my mind, I was struck by one particularly American aspect of my life: food.  Many of the foods I make on a regular basis are staples of "traditional" American menus.  A fair number actually have their roots in other countries or cultures, though they have been adopted with typically American assimilation.  Likewise, most of these recipes came to me through a mix of family, cook books and good old tinkering.  Perhaps the same results could have come about in another place, but these foods and their stories strike me as quintessentially American.  And so I plan to share a few.

Today's recipe has a slightly odd genesis.  I began making beans and rice because it was cheap, filling and kept well.  I just threw together some ingredients.  If there was any inspiration, it was probably my father's Ham & Beans recipe.  But this was certainly a different creation, a vaguely Southwestern dish for the hungry bachelor.  But after I got married, I discovered that my wife - whose mother is from Mississippi and whose father is from Louisiana - expected "beans and rice" to be New Orleans-style red beans and rice.  With the guidance of her poking and a few pointers from my mother-in-law, my bachelor recipe evolved into something of which I am rather proud.  It looks more Southern than Southwestern now, but I think it retains hints of its origins (in both my homeland and my hungry bachelor phase).  Enjoy!

Red Beans & Rice

3 cups dry beans (I often use one each of kidney, small red and pinto beans, but sometimes I use black too)
2 cans diced tomatoes (I usually use one "Mexican style" and one with green chilis)
14 oz kielbasa sausage, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Soak beans overnight or quick soak (ie, bring to rolling boil, turn off and let soak for 1 hr).  Begin simmering beans with tomatoes and lots of water.  Saute sausage, onion, green pepper and garlic in vegetable oil.  Add sausage mixture and remaining ingredients to beans.  Cook until beans are tender (2-3 hrs, usually).  Serve over rice.


Unfortunately, no, today's picture is not of my own making.  It comes from Simply Recipes.
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