Friday, April 28, 2017

Red Beans And Rice. And Don't Forget The Shrimp!

I was in a New Orleans frame of mind.
My apologies to NOLA-phytes everywhere, but this is my blog and I can cook and write whatever I want.

So, Holy Trinity!
I'm making red beans and rice.  And shrimp.

First, a little history on red beans and rice.  I love it when my food comes with a history lesson. 
When I think about red beans and rice, I think about New Orleans cooking. Red beans and rice is a quintessential Nawlin’s dish.  

What I’m doing is NOT that.  I just happened to think about Creole, then basically put a Colington spin on it and came up with Shrimp with Red Beans and Rice.

First the history:  The New Orleans part.  Red beans and rice Monday.  Imagine, if you will, a more genteel New Orleans of decades past.  Monday is laundry day.  The women of the house do their laundry on Mondays, so the Monday dinner is something that cooks itself, by itself.  The beans simmer slowly on the stove top for hours on Monday while the dutiful housewives attend to their wash.  At some point, the “Holy Trinity” was produced – diced onion, celery, and pepper.  A bone from Sunday’s meal was thrown in.  Some kind of meat was added, be it Andouille sausage or ham.  Seasonings were added – bay leaf, herbs, Tabasco or some type of hot sauce.  And it was served over rice.   Louis Armstrong himself, as a nod to his gustatory preferences, was known to sign his letters with, “Red beans and ricely yours.”

Now the Colington part:  Rosie ain’t doin’ no stinkin’ wash on Mondays.  That said, she will be making Shrimp with Red Beans and Rice.  But it won’t be an all-day project.

The only time I allow for is cooking dried red kidney beans.  I’m not a can-o’-beans kind o’ gal.  I always cook dried beans.  Figure on 1-3 hours for the beans, depending on your personal preferences and 30-40 minutes for the rice, depending on directions.  Toss the rice and beans with the Holy Trinity for a sautéed buttery jumble.  Dust some cumin over top. The shrimp is but a flash in a hot pan. 


Start with the beans.  One cup dried beans will yield three cups cooked beans.  Measure accordingly.  You can soak the beans overnight, but I never do.  I simply rinse my beans, then cook for about two hours, refreshing the water a couple of times.  Always test for taste and texture.  I prefer my beans on the “toothy” side, or al dente.  If you like yours more tender, cook longer.  Season with kosher salt.  Drain. 

Next, the rice.  Again, the conversion factor is one cup dried rice equals three cups cooked.  I used a combination of both white rice and yellow rice since both were available.  Cook the rice and add to the beans.

Rosie's Beans and Rice and Shrimp
2 TB unsalted butter

a yepsen of rice and beans
1 cup of The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity is the workhorse of the New Orleans kitchen.  It's equal parts onions, celery, and bell pepper and it's the distinctive, aromatic, classic flavor base of Cajun and Creole cooking.
The trio should be finely chopped.

Melt 1 TB butter.  Sauté the Holy Trinity until softened and fragrant - 2-3 minutes.  Add another plug of butter, melt, and add the cooked beans and rice.  Heat through and dust with cumin. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.

A yepsen, in case you didn't know, is a unit of measurement, and a fine one at that.
A yepsen denotes the amount that can be held in two hands cupped together.
Now, be sure to work that word into your conversation.

Next, prepare the shrimp.  Peel and de-tract the shrimp.  I don’t say “de-vein.”  That line running down the back of a shrimp is not a vein.  It’s the digestive tract.  Remove it.  Toss shrimp lightly with a Cajun or Creole seasoning.  You can use a prepared seasoning or you can easily make your own.  Combine equal parts onion powder, granulated garlic, oregano, thyme, parsley, paprika, cayenne, and ground pepper.  Taste test and give the shrimp a light sprinkle.  I rarely add salt to shrimp.  They’ve been living in the ocean and don’t need it.

Heat one tablespoon each unsalted butter and peanut oil in skillet over medium high heat.  The butter is for flavor; the oil is to raise the smoke point of the butter.  When butter gets sizzly-wizzly, add shrimp in a single layer.  Cook, turning after 30 seconds, for about a minute.  Immediately remove from hot pan. 

Here’s a tip:  Most people overcook their shrimp, resulting in tough, rubbery shrimp.  Take the shrimp out before you think they’re done and you’ll be fine.  Wait for the shrimp to just turn from gray.  The shrimp will tense up as they cook.  If they form a “C,” the edges not touching, then they’re “C”ooked.  If the shrimp form an “O,” with the head and tails touching, they’re “O”vercooked.  

I used a handful of shrimp.  Yes.  Half a yepsen.

Plate the dish.  Make a bed of beans and rice, then deliciously nestle the shrimp on top.  I like cilantro sprinkled over and if you’d like some drops of Texas Pete or other hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha), I won’t stop you.

Youngest Hawthorne particularly liked this.
His preferred serving method?
Wrapped up in a soft tortilla that's been charred a bit over an open flame.

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