Sam-Better Red Beans

November 24, 2008 at 6:18 am Leave a comment

Here’s a time wasting blog about fixing red beans.

I’ve been making red beans for years…always the same basic way, beans in water, add spices and meat and cook for a few hours.

Three weeks ago I had a red bean epiphany. I’d heard about the practice of soaking your beans overnight before cooking, but I always thought it a load of hooey…that is until I tried it myself and added a supposedly secret ingredient.

Now when I cook red beans I usually do it on a Sunday, because that’s a day I can be at the house and let it go for a few hours on the stove. I know Monday is the traditional New Orleans “wash da clothes and cook da beans” day, but I’m at work on Mondays makin’ da radio so I can’t celebrate in the true red bean tradition.

And when I’ve made my beans I have never soaked them…I just cook em. Part of my cooking process is mashing some in the pot after an hour or so when they’ve softened up a bit. This helps to make the beans a little thicker when they’re done.

Back to the epiphany:

About a month ago my dad gave me a book to read. It’s by a transplanted Yankee who became a food writer in New Orleans for a few years before leaving NO again last year. The book is “Gumbo Tales” and each chapter is about a different New Orleans food: poboys, oysters, muffs, etc…and of course red beans. The chapters are about the origins of each food, anecdotes, favorite restaurants for the foods and her personal stories and fond memories.

When she got to the red bean chapter she included the information about soaking the beans and the secret ingredient that one, now defunct, restaurant used to use. So I figured why not give both a shot the next time I made beans.

I did the bean soak overnight and cooked my beans on a Sunday as usual. I mashed the beans like I usually do after an hour or so and they seemed softer. The whole look of the beans looked creamier. Hmmm, this seemed to be working.

Now the only thing left was the secret ingredient. It’s neither one I’d never heard of adding to beans nor one that I would have even considered adding. It’s supposed to be added near the end of cooking for even more creaminess (I assume). And when I as considering dropping it in the pot I questioned whether or not I really wanted to do this and possibly screw up what looked to be a good pot of beans.

According to the author, the now defunct restaurant, whose name escapes me, was known for having some of the best red beans in town. She interviewed the chef/owner and he said it was his secret ingredient that made his beans the best and set him apart from others.

Now for the secret ingredient. It’s margarine. The chef said he added it right before serving. I added a half stick to my pot about 20 minutes before I turned off the heat. Stirred it up and served it and damn if they weren’t the creamiest and tastiest beans I’d ever made. I found a new way to make red beans and I wasn’t going back. Since then I’ve made another pot and sure enough it was the same delicious, creamy pot of beans.

Give it a shot yourself. I use one pack of Camelia red beans, use your favorite spices and meat, soak the beans alone overnight and don’t forget the half stick of margarine. 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