What’s for dinner: Cajun Red Beans and Rice

Tonight’s dish was inspired by our weekend out—and, more specifically, the woman who showed up at Denny’s that made us all say: “Ms. Fat Booty!”

This is my friend James’ surreptitiously taken iPhone shot — at first we were just taken aback by the fact she was wearing such a short dress with like Ugg house slippers. (OK, maybe I was the only person who was.) But then she turned to the side, and James said: “Beans and rice didn’t miss her!”

I regretted it as soon as I reminded him of the full lyrics (“Give me a sister I can’t resist her / red beans and rice didn’t miss her”), because I couldn’t get the song out of my head. For two straight days.

It didn’t help that my latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated features the recipe for Cajun Red Beans and Rice … or that the other day while wandering the aisles of the grocery store, I happened down the aisle that had the small red beans called for in the recipe. Then and there, I decided the best way to exorcize the song from my head was to fill up my belly.

Cost of ingredients: The deck of the article in Cook’s Illustrated begins: “In New Orleans, cooks transform a dollar’s worth of dried beans into a creamy, smoky stew.” What it doesn’t mention is that everything else costs you another $20.96 — and I omitted the fresh thyme.

I already had the beans and rice.

Substitutions: I thought it would be a good idea to try turkey bacon instead of regular. For some reason, I really didn’t consider that I’d be using only four slices of bacon over six servings … or that I’d be using a significantly larger amount of full-fat andouille sausage a bit down the road. Plus, the whole point of the bacon is to render fat so you can cook the vegetables — turkey bacon has so little, I ended up dribbling some olive oil in the pan to make up for it. The recipe called for “sweet paprika,” but I settled for the paprika from the Mexican food aisle because it was cheaper. Plus, I can’t tell you how big of a thrill I got from buying spices with the brand name “El Guapo” (the handsome one). Actually, yes I can: I got a tremendous thrill from buying spices with the brand name “El Guapo.”

As easy as they said? Easy but time-intensive. You have to soak the beans at least overnight, which isn’t a big deal. But after that, there’s still another two hours of cooking before the dish is ready for the table. The article says “most of that time is unattended simmering,” but by the time you also put the rice on and clean up your dishes, there’s very little “unattended” about it.

How’d THAT go over? Delicious, if I do say so myself. And so did my neighbors, whom I invited over to partake as well.

Would I make it again? I wouldn’t try it on a weekday that requires dinner be served any time before 7 p.m., that’s for sure. But on the right weekend, definitely.

But, one note of caution: Don’t do what I did, which was bypass our local specialty sausage store and head to Safeway, thinking, “Hey, my store has an olive bar, and artisan breads. I’m sure they have andouille sausage!” Because if they do, you’ll buy it, get home, and then realize that is is the very brand that Cook’s Illustrated called the “weak link” in its sidebar of ratings. (That would be Bruce Aidells Cajun-style andouille sausage, which the magazine ranked dead-last. Then again, they only tasted four brands.)

WHAT SAM WORE: 01-26-10
I’m going to wear a tie every day this week.
Today: A full Windsor knot! The sweater hides it a bit more than yesterday.
The sweater: Navy wool/cotton V-neck vest from Banana Republic.
The shirt: Cotton spread-collar dress shirt
by John Varvatos ★ USA, from Marshall’s.
The tie: Silk tie by Kenneth Cole Reaction, from Macy’s.
The pants: These amazing pants from Ted Baker, New York City.
The shoes: Super-pointy-toe slip-on boots by Mezlan, from Last Chance.
(From heel to toe, they’re 13.5 inches!)

2 responses to “What’s for dinner: Cajun Red Beans and Rice

  1. I had no idea you read Cooks Illustrated! How about Fine Cooking? I must have every issue for the last 2 years…I pick them up when I go to the printer (we print Vigor at the same plant they print at!)

    • I don’t think I’ve ever seen Fine Cooking. I love Cook’s Illustrated because the authors explain in great detail how they already messed everything up numerous times, so readers can avoid doing so by just following instructions and not trying any harebrained attempts at substitutions.

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