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April 09, 2013

The Ultimate Comfort Food

Red Beans and Rice
Everyone has their ultimate comfort food. Food, it seems, that just has the power to reach right down into the very essence of our being and make us feel better about anything. It's funny how those comfort foods always seem to fall into another popular category--soul food--and really, there isn't a better word. Is there?

There's nothing that makes me happier than sitting down to a big plate of red beans and rice, the bottle of hot sauce within reach and a couple of pieces of buttered French bread on the side.

Down in New Orleans, red beans and rice are a staple. Traditionally, this is a Monday supper, since Monday's were the days when women did laundry and there wasn't any time to fool with elaborate meal preparations. This is just how it was for me this past Monday; I had my red beans cooking away while I went back and forth to the laundry room, but the best part of my red beans is that I put them in the crockpot on Sunday night, so when I woke up in the morning, the first thing I smelled was the pot of beans. It was just the thing to wake up to on a Monday morning and I enjoyed a few good whiffs before I drifted off for a few more minutes and commenced to dreaming of ham bones.



Red Beans and Rice

1 ham bone
ham scraps or pickle pork
1 package Camellia Red Beans (you HAVE to use this brand)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped celery, leafy greens as well
1 green bell pepper chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup of ham stock (leftover ham drippings) or, 2 packages of Goya Ham concentrate
4 bay leaves
water

1. Put butter, onion, celery and bell pepper into a pan over medium heat and sauté until vegetables are wilted.
2. Add ham stock and beans; toss to coat.
3. Add water to cover beans and add the bay leaves.
4. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat and cover; allow to sit for 30 minutes.
5. Pour beans into a crockpot; add ham bone, ham scraps and/or pickle pork; cover.
6. Cook on low for 12 hours.
7. Turn off crockpot and allow the beans to cool for 1 hour.
8. Remove the extra liquid and set aside (this is about 2 cups); when cool, put into a container and freeze for your next pot of beans; this is bean starter.
9. Remove 2 cups of beans from the crockpot and put into a flat bottomed bowl.
10. With a potato masher, mash the beans up and then scrape them back into the crockpot.
11. Stir the mashed beans into the whole beans until your beans are creamy.
12. Serve with rice.

* Doing laundry is optional.

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