Leftover Makeover – Red Beans and Rice

IMG_4323First off, sorry about the blurry photos. I was very hungry while preparing this dish, and impatience does not steady a camera.

My previous post featured dried kidney beans and Italian sausage. Chances are, you still have kidney beans in the refrigerator; here’s an easy weeknight meal to put them to use, with another type of highly-flavored sausage. It’s my take on red beans and rice. I used the leftover cooked kidney beans, along with some other ingredients that are often found in Creole/Cajun cooking (they are not the same thing; look them up!)

Materials Needed:

1 tablespoon olive oil
12 oz. fully cooked Andouille sausage (or kielbasa)
1 quart cooked kidney beans
one onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 bell pepper (typically green, but use what your family likes), stem and seeds removed, chopped
1 cup long grain white rice
1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
handful of minced fresh parsley

IMG_4312The first step is browning the sausage. It will be much quicker if the sausage is fully cooked right out of the package, so read the label carefully when shopping. This is a weeknight meal, so the faster the better. Also, while Andouille is customary here, if you have never had it or can’t find it, use what your family likes. Mild kielbasa has a flavor profile that will work just fine here, and is often easier to find. Remember, the more fully flavored your sausage is, the more flavor will be in your final dish.

Chop the sausage into bite-size pieces, and brown in a large skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil, over medium heat. Do not overcook; once the sausage has taken on a lovely brown color, and left golden oils in the pan, remove it with a slotted spoon into a bowl for later. Don’t leave out the oil; it’s necessary to prevent the sausage from scorching, and it helps carry the flavor of the dish. It’s only a tablespoon.

Next, to this pan of golden goodness, add the chopped onion, celery, and bell pepper, also known as the Trinity in Cajun cooking. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could add one minced clove of garlic, but the sausage has garlic in it as well, so it’s not needed. Your vegetables should be chopped in about 1/2-inch pieces (you practiced your knife skills over the weekend, right?).

IMG_4314Typically, the Trinity features green bell peppers, but The Husband doesn’t like them, so I use red. Salt and pepper the vegetables, and cook over medium heat, until they have softened and begun to brown just a bit.

IMG_4315Time to add the tomatoes, juice and all, the rice, and a tomato can of water. You can use chicken stock here, but water’s fine if that’s what you have. Stir it all together, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

IMG_4317Once the rice is done, you can add the sausage and the beans to the pan; stir everything together, simmer to warm through and marry the flavors, and add salt and pepper to taste. I didn’t add any red pepper flakes or hot pepper sauce, because the sausage had a kick to it, and my family prefers different levels of heat, but you can sprinkle in a few drops of hot sauce if your family wants to turn it up.

IMG_4319All this dish is missing is a handful of minced fresh parsley (only fresh please!), and it’s ready to serve, in about 30 minutes. It’s great warmed in the microwave the next day for lunch, or dinner. To change things up a little for another dinner idea, serve it over some hearty cooked greens like kale or swiss chard.

That unassuming bag of dried beans will help you feed your family several home-cooked meals, with just a little bit of planning, a little bit of chopping, and a boost from pre-seasoned sausage. Give dried beans some love, and they’ll love you right back.

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