Red beans and Rice isn’t my favorite dish in the world. My indifference to the stew is why it took some time to develop it. When I originally started making it, I tried adding more spices such as ginger, cinnamon and so forth. The boyfriend and I agree on the older results: Keep trying (however, I later discovered he’s not partial to cinnamon flavors). A few versions later, I’ve learned the characteristics of an excellent bowl of red beans and rice is in its simplicity.
Within the rise of the good food movement, is a return to the basics of food. This low-cost recipe only requires the browning of chicken and sausages, sauteing vegetables, and a long simmering process of softening kidney beans until they’re tender. It’s not a complex recipe. We’re only intimated by it because of its reputation as one of the ultimate comfort dishes only our grandparents or parents made with their sincerest love—and, big toe.
Unlike many Southern comfort recipes that have evolved into being unhealthy with the addition of processed ingredients, red beans and rice remains relatively healthy. In this version, white rice is replaced with a rice blend of nutty long-grain brown, sweet shorter brown, the reddish wehani, sticky Japonica and wild rice. Wild rice is native to North America from an aquatic grass growing in the shallow part of small lakes and streams. The color and texture of the various rice increases the flavor profile in a stew of red beans and chicken. If you desire to stick with the basics, continue using white rice with this red bean and chicken stew.
To increase the flavor and the health factor, I couldn’t resist adding diced sweet potatoes (winter squash such as delicata, turks turban and acorn work well, too). In this age when people’s palates crave sugary and salty flavors, because they’re raised on processed food, using naturally sweet vegetables instead of sugar is a better alternative. It helps recipes maintain a clean taste.
Red Beans with Chicken and Wild Rice is now one of our favorite meals. Serve it with Buttermilk Cornbread. Don’t get fancy with this dish–stay away from the cinnamon–just keep it simple. Simmer it for a long time. And, basically enjoy a clean and flavorful stew.
Red Beans and Chicken with Wild Rice
Olive oil; as needed
1 whole chicken; cut into parts; seasoned and marinated in fresh black pepper, sea salt, a dash of cayenne, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, 1 minced fresh garlic, a dash of red balsamic vinegar and olive oil
1 lb. plum tomatoes; diced or one 14 oz. canned chopped tomatoes
12 oz. dried red kidney beans
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 large onion; diced
3-4 carrots; diced
2-3 celery stalks; diced*
1 jalapeno; seeds and ribs discarded; diced
2 large garlic cloves; minced
1 green bell pepper; diced
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Fresh black pepper and sea salt; to taste
A dash of celery seed
1-12 oz. chicken (or pork) Andouille sausage; sliced**
32 oz. low-sodium chicken stock
(Optional) 1/2 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup minced fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley and/or sage)
1 bunch of fresh thyme; tied with twine
2-cups flat-leaf parsley; roughly chopped
(Optional) 2-cups diced small sweet potatoes or winter squash
Cooked white, brown and/or wild rice†
Garnish: Sliced radishes, favorite hot sauce brand, Chopped green scallions, celery leaves and/or parsley
1. Place red kidney beans with 1/2 tsp. of baking soda in a bowl and cover with water to soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Set aside.
2. If using fresh tomatoes: Place tomatoes in a medium size pot of boiling water. Remove tomatoes after about 20 to 30 seconds, or when the skin starts to peel. When cool enough to handle, slip skins off. Roughly chop tomatoes and place in a bowl with their juice.
3. Over medium temperature in a large pot, heat olive oil until hot. Add the chicken and brown on both sizes. Remove chicken to a paper-toweled lined plate. Set aside. Dump out excess oil, reserve about a tablespoon.
4. Add the sausage slices and brown. Remove to the same plate as the chicken parts. Set aside.
5. Add onions, carrots, celery, and jalapeno to the reserved oil in the pot. When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the green pepper, smoked paprika, sea salt and fresh black pepper.
6. Return the chicken parts and sausage slices back to the pot. Add the bay leaf, chicken stock and wine (optional). When the liquids are boiling, add the dried kidney beans. Partly cover the pot and maintain a rapid simmer. Stir occasionally.
7. After 45 minutes add sea salt, tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh herbs, thyme bunch and 1-cup of fresh parsley. Partly cover the pot and continue to maintain a rapid simmer. Stir occasionally. Adjust seasoning as needed.
8. Continue and simmer for an additional 45 minutes to one hour or until the red kidney beans or done. Time varies based on the freshness of the beans.
9. Meanwhile, cook the wild and/or brown rice.
10. (Optional) 20 minutes before the beans are done, add diced sweet potatoes or winter squash.
11. When the beans are done, stir in the remaining second cup of parsley. Adjust seasoning.
12. Serve red beans over wild rice. Use your favorite hot sauce brand. Garnish with sliced radishes, celery and/or parsley leaves.
* If purchasing celery from the farmer’s market, save the leaves to use as a garnish.
** Use turkey, duck or pork sausages that are minimally processed and without growth hormones.
† Add depth to this dish by experimenting with various wild rice blends made of long-grain brown, sweet brown, wehani, Japonica and wild rice. Cook according to the manufacturer’s directions.
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