Many years ago I ran onto a “soul recipe” for red beans and rice. It was written in the words of the melody-bending jazz artist: Louis Armstrong. His recipes that you see on line today have been abbreviated and properly formatted for cookbooks and food blogs. This one is not.
His opening line is one that makes me laugh each time I read it or whenever I look for the right size pot for a dish I’m about to cook. Here’s “Satchmo’s” recipe:
Satchmo’s Recipe in His Own Words
“First, you gotta get a big pot, about half the size of a tuba. (I have a half-tuba-size pot; I know exactly what he means.) You wash that out good and then get a piece or two of raw garlic and rub the entire insides of that pot with garlic. Then you get a couple of pounds of red beans and you put them and a lot of water in the pot and let then soak real good over night.
“The next morning, early, you heat up that pot until it’s bubbling real good and to it you add some onion, green pepper, and celery all cut up. Celery is what clarifies the beans. After awhile, you toss in some meat like fatback or one of them little hams they call ‘sweet morsel.’ (A more formalized version of the recipe calls for ham hock or smoked pork butt.) Now you let that all just cook along, and of messing around in the pot together and you get you a big fry pan.
“Cook Up Some Plain Old Hamburger”
“To that fry pan you cook up some plain old hamburger, about a pound or two, to which you add some more garlic, some salt, a whole mess of pepper—black, red, white, and cayenne—and the good old Louisiana hot sauce. Enough to give it a good hard jolt.
Now, you let that all go on cookin’ and you go back to the pot o beans. By now they are getting nice and soft, and you take you a big spoon and you start mashin’ them together and against the side of the pot until what you got is like a sort of paste, with that sweet morsel kind of bobbin’ in the middle.
A Trumpet Blast of Goodness
“Now you keep workin’ at that, getting everything all mashed up, and the hamburger cooking, and you start the rice, which, incidentally, shoulda been soaking all night along with the beans. That brown rice is the best, but hard to find, so get the Louisiana rice instead. Now you cook up that rice while you are finishing the beans and other meat and get ready for a great chorus in eating.
“When everything is done cooking, you mix the hamburger in with the beans and stir and mash it all up good. Then you get you some big plates and you put the rice on one side, the red beans and meat on the other, add a big slab of homemade bread and look out, you!”
(Another, more precise version, keeps the ham hock, but leaves out the hamburger. Apparently, Louie made the dish both ways.)