UPDATED: February 3, 2016. This recipe has been tried and tested and it works so well that it deserves yet another go around. This time, I truly cooked it in a slow cooker, for about 10 hours! The true secret is to saute your vegetables to bring out the most flavor and to soak the beans, at least 4 hours to overnight.
Laissez les bon temps rouler! In honor of Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday - I made a pot of vegetarian red beans and rice. This dish is definitely in the category of one pot meals made in the style of the Big Easy's cheap-n-easy. It includes a mess of the Cajun Holy Trinity with a smattering of carrots, a whole lotta Tabasco or Hot Sauce of Choice, a chipotle pepper and some nice old red kidney beans. Let it cook down in and after a few hours you got yourself a big ole pot of spicy goodness. As much as I like my meats, sausages and other porky treats - this loose interpretation of red beans and rice was made out of necessity so I could have a vegetarian meal option to take to my kosher workplace. If you use enough vegetables, a good chipotle pepper and let the beans cook long enough, you will not miss the meat. Besides, you could have something on the side if you need or crave that extra protein.
The main thing is letting the beans cook down long enough that the begin to fall apart. If the beans you have are old and they just never get to that mushy stage, feel free to smash them a bit with the back of a spoon or an old fashioned potato masher. The main thing is that the beans just cook and cook and cook and make their own "bean gravy", absorbing all the spice and smokey heat of the chipotle pepper. Season with salt AFTER the beans are cooked down not before. Remember to taste before you season, as the dish cooks, cools and sits, its flavors will develop even further. I made this dish on Saturday and ate it on Sunday. It was when I reheated it that I seasoned it with salt and additional Tabasco Sauce. As for using okra - I know I'm mixing my meals here, making my red beans and rice morph into some sort of mumbo gumbo. I like okra and I wanted something else in the dish. Skip it if you don't like, don't have or can't find okra. By the way, frozen okra is far easier to find in most grocery stores and works great.
Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice Ingredients:
- 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- Large Onion - small dice
- 2 Celery Stalks - small dice
- 1 Red and 1 Green Bell Pepper - small dice
- 2 Medium Carrots - peeled & small dice
- 5-6 Garlic Cloves - minced
- 2 Cups Red Beans - picked over, rinsed and if time permits, soaked for 4 hours to overnight
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 Whole Dry Chipotle Pepper
- 4 Cups Water - or 3 Cups Cold Water and 1 Bottle of Hop-style IPA Beer, like Hop Devil IPA (optional but it tastes so much better w/the beer!)
- 1/2 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Tabasco or Hot Sauce of Choice - to taste
- 2 Cups Frozen Okra - Optional
- Kosher or Sea Salt - to taste
- 2 Cups Cooked Rice for Serving - White Long Grain is Traditional or use Brown Rice or a more nutritious option
- Pick over the red beans and discard any pebbles, stones or beans that are split or misshapen. If time permits, soak the beans in cold water for two hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans and set aside.
- In a large stock pot or heavy bottomed pot, such as a Dutch Oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add in the onions, celery, bell peppers and carrots; sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to take on a bit of color (but don't let them burn or caramelize). Next, add in the minced garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
- Add in the soaked red beans, the bay leaves and the chipotle pepper. Pour in 4 cups of cold water, or enough water and the bottle of beer to cover the beans and vegetables by 1 to 2 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat down to lowest setting.
- Keep the pot at a gentle low simmer for as long as it takes for the beans to cook down and become tender - so tender they begin to fall apart. This may take 2 to 3 hours. Keep an eye on the pot, adding more water as needed.
- As the beans cook down, the mixture in the pot will go from recognizable pieces of vegetables in a watery broth to looking like a pot of dark brown mush. When this happens, taste the beans, seasoning with the black pepper, hot sauce and salt. If serving right away, add in the okra (if using it) about 15 minutes before serving. Otherwise, cool the mixture and refrigerate.
- If you make the red beans and rice to serve later or the next day, reheat the beans and add in the okra and then season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce. Serve hot over rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Recipe can easily be doubled to serve a larger crowd.
|Beans, vegetables, liquid - before it cooks in the slow cooker or pot|
|After the ingredients have cooked for at least 4 hours.|
This batch cooked for over 10 hours on low!
|The batch after I took a potato masher to it to "puree" the mix down!|
This is what the mixture looks like as it cooks - you can distinguish all the vegetables and beans - it looks more like a vegetable bean soup. Have patience! It takes a long time to cook down but it's worth the wait!