We have a few go-to weeknight meals in our house. There was probably something that your mom made a LOT when you were growing up. And I’m “that” mama. A lot of people fall into the convenience food rut on busy nights (not that I have
three ANY grocery store taco kits in my cupboard as I write this!), but you don’t have to. In the same amount of time that it takes to make the stuff that comes in the helpful box with the big glove on it, you can have a tasty home cooked Cajun meal on the table.
This meal really doesn’t require a lot of planning. It can be thrown together in about 30 minutes (how fast can you chop without losing a digit?). I’m sort of ashamed to say that we eat this one a LOT – at least once or twice a month. It’s so easy that we fall back on it quite a bit. And with just the three of us, there is usually enough leftover for my lunch. I always make sure we have onions, garlic, celery and a bell pepper or two (carrots too, but not for this recipe) in the vegetable drawer. With these ingredients on hand, it’s a lot easier to pull something together. I also make sure that I have andouille sausage in the meat drawer or freezer. You can use regular smoked sausage, but I find it can get a little greasy and spongy. A good Louisiana andouille, if you can find it, really is best.
In many recipes you may hear the term mirepoix. This is a classic combination of carrots, celery and onions and is the basis for many recipes. To me, it’s what makes chicken soup taste like chicken soup. But in Cajun cooking, you’ll use a combination called “Trinity.” Trinity is a combination of celery, onions and bell pepper (often with a little garlic thrown in, making it “Holy Trinity”). And it’s not going to taste like Cajun food if you don’t use all of those ingredients.
This recipe comes together really quickly so I’m going to let you in on a couple of timesavers to speed up the chopping, cooking and clean up. First, I use a big old garbage bowl. Yep, sounds kind of gross, but put a BIG bowl right next to your cutting board (I do this just about every time I cook). As you chop off the top of your onion and pull off the skin, throw those in the bowl. Woody celery ends and wilted leaves? Garbage bowl. Andouille packaging? Yep, garbage bowl. Save multiple walks to the garbage can and, if everything is tossed in there, clean up will be a lot easier.
Another thing I do on something like this is use small plates or bowls to stage the ingredients. Think about your favorite cooking show. You don’t see a lot of chopping going on – everything is in those cute little dishes ready to be added and it seems like they are able to cook much faster. That’s because it IS faster. This is really similar to how professional kitchens work. There is a culinary term, “mise en place,” which means “put in place.” If all of your ingredients are chopped and ready to go, you don’t have to stop and start so much. So before you even heat the oil in your pan, chop everything and have it ready to go. You can use normal plates if you don’t mind a couple of extra dishes for the dishwasher or you can use paper plates if you want.
This recipe also includes my main method for cooking rice. Just remember 1:2 ratio; 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid (water or stock typically). You don’t have to use oil or toast the rice like I do (although I promise it tastes SO much better that way!). The key to cooking rice is to bring the rice to a boil, stir, cover and turn off the heat. The rice will absorb all the liquid on its own in 20-25 minutes. All you have to do is fluff it at the end.
I promise this is an easy recipe that will help you fall out of the convenience food habit. And it could lead you to figure out some similar recipes of your own! Share with me if you like!
Weeknight Red Beans and Rice
- 3-5 T vegetable oil, divided
- 1 C good long grain rice
- 1/2 t salt
- 2 C water or broth
- 1 lb andouille sausage, 1/2 inch dice
- 1 medium green pepper, 1/2 inch dice (approximately 1 cup)
- 1 small onion, 1/2 inch dice (approximately 1 cup)
- 3 stalks celery, 1/2 inch dice (approximately 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 T all purpose flour
- 1 T Worcestershire sauce
- 1 T hot sauce (start with this and add more if you like it spicy)
- 1 – 1 1/2 C beef or chicken broth (I prefer beef)
- 1 can red kidney beans, drained
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley or scallions for garnish, optional
Heat 1 T oil in saucepan (with tight fitting lid) over medium high heat. Add salt and rice and saute until rice just begins to change color. Stir in water or broth and cover. Bring to a boil (don’t boil over – what a mess!), stir, replace lid and turn off the heat (if you have an electric range like I do, you may have to actually move it off the burner so it stops boiling). Allow to sit, covered, for 20-25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.
Heat 1 T oil in large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add andouille and saute until just brown and crisp on edges about 5-7 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate or bowl and set aside, leaving the oil and drippings in the pan. In same pan, add celery. Saute for a 1-2 minutes, then add onions and bell pepper, adding a little more oil if needed. Saute until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more (being careful not to brown the garlic too much). Remove vegetables with slotted spoon to plate or bowl with sausage and set aside. Add 2 T oil to same pan and stir in flour. Stir constantly for about five minutes (longer if you have the time) to make a roux. You want it as dark as you can get it without scorching it. I usually take mine to about the color of peanut butter. Gradually stir in broth, whisking after each addition until you have a lovely smooth gravy, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add in Worcestershire and hot sauce and combine well. Add the sausage and vegetables back to the pan with your can of red beans (which I have forgotten more than once). Simmer for 5-10 minutes depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables. Salt and pepper to taste and add more hot sauce as needed.
Fluff rice with a fork.
Ladle stew into shallow bowls and top with a scoop of rice (or you could serve the stew on top of the rice – I just like the aesthetics of serving the rice on top) and garnish with chopped parsley or scallions.
Serve with a big salad and you’ve got a satisfying and quick home cooked meal!
*A note to my kosher friends: Traditionally, red beans and rice is made with a pork andouille sausage. You could try this with chicken smoked sausage. It’s not going to taste quite the same but could certainly work.