Add tasty venison sausage to your traditional red beans and rice with ham hocks to give it an extra boost of flavor. (Photo: www.VisitLakeCharles.org)
Mondays were wash days in New Orleans back years ago, a day when the laundry and everything else needing cleaning was taken care of to start the week.
This was back in the days of wash pots and fire, remember, and hanging the items on the clothes line in the yard to dry. Warm breezes and blazing sunshine probably didn’t take long to get the job done. But it was a tedious job requiring long hours, and to be able to handle the laundry along with cooking chores something easy had to be prepared.
Beans, of course, were the solution. Red beans, to be specific, and depending on the wealth of the homeowner it might even be a specific kind of red bean. Perhaps something grown on their land. Maybe something they loved from a visit elsewhere, or from tradition in family circles. Whatever the case, a big pot of red beans — hearty, textural but not crunchy (duh!), and filling — slowly simmering on the stove or over the fire was perfect for Monday wash day.
The red beans needed rice, a staple for any Cajun fare. Over time, this dish became common on restaurant menus as well in Lake Charles, New Orleans and elsewhere. If a restaurant wasn’t closed on Monday after the weekend, it often was used as a slower day to prep for the week ahead. Red beans and rice helped the staff with an easy meal to prepare and serve, often to diners who wanted comfort food at a low price. Add some delicious crusty-chewy bread and a beverage or two, and it was a fine meal.
Today, wash day is any day. But Monday still is a Red Beans and Rice Day on many Louisiana restaurant menus. It’s also something easy to make at home or in your hunting camp, any time of the year, and you can modify it to fit your whims.
One of the best ways, I think, to add to it is with venison sausage. You’re only including one ingredient, the sausage, to an already tasty, hearty dish. Depending on how your sausage is made, it might lend a little depth or some spicy kick.
Whatever the case with your sausage, with the recipe below from the good folks at VisitLakeCharles.org just add a link or two cut up into bite-sized pieces. You could grill the sausage to give it a little char or smoky goodness and add for the final hour of cooking (Step 4, below) or include from the first portion of cooking (Step 3).
Red Beans & Rice
1 pound dry small Camilla red beans
1 ½ tablespoons of butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ cups celery, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, seeded and chopped 4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 to 6 cups ham shank stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Creole seasoning to taste
Crystal hot sauce to taste
2 cups cooked white rice
What to do
1. Place dried beans in a large bowl and cover them with cold water by a couple of inches. Let soak for eight hours or overnight.
2. Drain water off soaked beans and set aside. In a large pot, add butter, onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until vegetables become soft.
3. Add beans, ham shank stock and bay leaf to pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 1 ½ hours or until beans are very tender.
4. Remove ham shanks from pot and set aside. Allow meat to cool slightly, then shred with a fork. Return meat back to pot and add Worcestershire sauce and creole seasonings to taste. Cover and cook for another hour or until the mixture gets thick and creamy. Season with hot sauce, salt and pepper. Serve over rice.
1. Quick soak red beans by putting them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them, covering them by 2 inches, then letting them soak for two hours.
2. For creamy beans, cooking liquid should barely be above the beans.
Braised Ham Shanks
2 pounds smoked ham hocks
½ medium Spanish onion, halved
3 small celery stalks, roughly chopped
½ medium carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
6 fresh garlic cloves
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 black peppercorns
8 cups low sodium chicken stock
WHAT TO DO
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium stockpot. Bring meat to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook meat at a steady simmer until tender, about 4 to 5 hours.
2. Remove hocks with a slotted spoon and put them in a large bowl. Strain the cooking liquid and discard vegetables and herbs. Let hocks cool in braising liquid.
3. After hocks cool, fork pull meat off bone into bite-sized chunks. Discard bones and most of the fat, also reserve shank stock for beans. Use pulled hock meat to turn a soup into a hearty meal.
Find more Cajun Recipes here.