Look at that teeny tiny skillet! Isn't she terrific? She's one of a short stack of cast iron pans of varying sizes (including an awesome griddle pan) that my grandmother gave me. They sit in the corner of my kitchen unused for the most part, because they're beautifully seasoned and I'm terrified of ruining them somehow. As a rule I get about halfway through the instructions for seasoning cast iron and think, "Nope! Definitely would screw that up!" and hope my sweet gramma isn't somewhere rolling her eyes at me.
She is definitely somewhere rolling her eyes at me.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a friend's house to watch Breaking Bad. (Because from a television standpoint it's the best thing this side of The Golden Girls—only, you know, with harder drugs. Rose only went to rehab because she was addicted to muscle relaxers.) I never think much about other people cooking for me because I so enjoy being the cook-er that I rarely considering being the cooked-for. But Julie made this amazing, can't-get-it-off-my-mind red beans and rice. It was perfectly spicy, and the texture was spot on: creamy and smooth but chock-full of beans (yum) and Cajun sausage (double yum).
Red beans and rice is the kind of dish that hits you in all the right comfort food spots—it's akin to a casserole, which wins because it has that little-bit-of-everything feel. In this case, there is thick, starchy broth, bright heat, meaty bits, and fragrant carbs.
I do believe that's everything.
Julie made hers in a slow cooker, and trust me when I tell you that's the ideal way to go. But if you are like me and have fewer mouths to feed and an inability to think beyond five minutes from whatever time it is, this is an easy one to simmer on your stovetop and come out with a delicious weeknight facsimile. You also get the benefit of browning off the sausage, which I love because it gives it a crispy exterior that's a lovely contrast to the rice and beans.
One thing Julie did that I forgot to do but highly suggest, is to mash up some of the beans. This thickens and silkifies (sure, could be a word) the "stew" part of the mix but leaves whole beans, too, for stick-to-your-ribs toothsomeness.
One thing Julie did NOT do but that I also highly suggest, is to top the whole thing off with a sensible (ahem) dollop of pimiento cheese.
It was mentioned to me that this could be considered "weird," but try it try it try it I promise it's a lovely marriage. Think of it as putting cheese on your chili, but then remember that this mixture introduces a vinegary tang from the pimientos. I scooped it out when it was well chilled, so that it slowly melted into the beans and became sort of a cheesy surprise in every bite.
The easiest way to accomplish this feat of strangeness is to use your favorite prepared pimiento cheese, but please make sure it was made by hands that freshly grated it, if you can. Store-bought pimiento cheese probably isn't going to give you the same payoff as the more artisan variety. (This here was given to me by my sister-in-law, who purchased it from a local vegetarian restaurant/dive bar in town. It was just right.)
So here's to being weird!
OK, that's enough eye-rolling, Grandma.
Stovetop Red Beans and Rice with Pimiento Cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces andouille sausage
1 small green bell pepper, diced
½ medium onion, diced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
3 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (16-ounce) cans low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Hot cooked rice
Prepared pimiento cheese
Garnish: chopped green onions
1. Heat olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add sausage; cook 5 minutes or until well browned. Remove sausage from pot with a slotted spoon, reserving drippings in pot. Stir in bell pepper and onion; cook until vegetables are softened. Stir in salt and next 3 ingredients; cook 1 minute or until spices are fragrant. Add chicken brought and tomato sauce, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of pot. Stir in beans; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
2. Bring mixture to a boil and cook, uncovered, 20 more minutes or until liquid is slightly thickened. Stir in sausage, and cook until heated through.
3. Divide rice among serving bowls; top with bean mixture, and dollop with pimiento cheese. Garnish, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.