Because of red beans and rice’s highly desirable price-to-tastiness ratio, I’ve been experimenting with it for years, and let me tell you: Despite the seemingly simple lineup of ingredients, there are many, many opportunities for things to go wrong (slow cooker vs. stovetop, red beans vs. kidney beans, rice cooked in-pot vs. separate, ham hock, no ham hock, different kinds of sausage…). This recipe, in my opinion, is both the most authentic and the best-tasting. It eschews the slow-cooker; uses small red beans, which cook up creamier than kidney beans; includes ham hocks and sausage; and has the beans served over the rice, which is the only way I’ve ever seen it in Louisiana. Don’t be afraid to make up a double batch—it tastes better the longer it sits.
As below it makes about 6+ servings.
• 1 lb. dry small red beans (this is one of those items that’s often incongruously cheaper on the shelf than in bulk): $1
• At least 2 large ham hocks (if you have 3 or 4, that’s even better): $1
• 9-12 oz. smoked link sausage (Andouille is far and away the best; I used 98-cent links from Winco that were basically glorified hot dogs, which was taking it a bit far, but any smoked sausage would be fine): 98 cents
• 1 onion, chopped: 10 cents
• 3 ribs celery, chopped: 9 cents
• 5 bay leaves: 5 cents
• 2 tsp white pepper: 1 cent
• 1/2 tsp black pepper: 1 cent
• 2 tsp dried thyme: 2 cents
• 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder: 2 cents
• 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano: 5 cents
• 1 tsp cayenne (optional; this makes it pretty spicy, so if you’re sensitive to heat, you might want to leave this out): 2 cents
• 2 cups dry white rice: 30 cents
• Salt: 1 cent
• Tabasco or other pepper sauce to taste (optional): 5 cents
TOTAL: $3.71/6 = 62 cents/serving
In a large saucepot or Dutch oven, combine the beans (yes, totally dried and un-soaked), ham hocks, onion, celery, bay leaves, and all the spices (except for the salt—the beans won’t soften as well with it in there—and optional Tabasco). Don’t add the sausage yet; if you do, the end product will be too homogenous-tasting.
Add about 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer, partially covered, until beans are soft but not falling apart, about 2 hours (this will depend largely on the age of your beans—it could take as little as 1 1/2 hours or as long as 3).
Remove the ham hocks. Cut what edible non-fatty meat bits you can off of them, and return the bones and meat bits to the pot. (Discard the fat and skin scraps.)
Add the sausage to the pot as well and season to taste with salt (you may need a lot) and additional pepper, if desired.
Bring to a strong simmer and simmer, uncovered, for about half an hour, until beans are almost falling apart.
Meanwhile, cook the rice however you normally cook rice. (I use a ratio of 2x water to rice in a rice cooker.)
Serve the beans ladled over the rice with a splash or two of Tabasco, if desired.