Monday, August 15, 2011

Your Mama, Buster Holmes, and Blue Runner

I'm not a New Orleanian born and raised, so red beans and rice Mondays aren't in my DNA. But after moving here in the 1970s, I was introduced to the tradition in the best possible way, at Buster Holmes' on Chartres. My best friend and I had Typing before lunch, and Gym afterwards, so that meant we had just about enough time to skip out of McMain, head down Claiborne to the Quarter, have lunch, and be back in our desks for English, before heading to NOCCA for our afternoon classes. My parents were from Georgia and Arkansas, so I actually ended up preferring the big pot of white beans with ham hocks that was usually sharing the stove top, but I enjoyed many plastic plates full of red beans, rice and sausage before Holmes closed the doors forever.

Between those golden years, and years of Mondays with our friend Dave's homemade pots of vegetarian red bean goodness, and oh yes, regular small sides with Popeye's 2-piece dark meat combos, I'm a red bean lover. I've come to depend on others for my red bean meals. But lately we've taken an old and reliable shortcut in Blue Runners, and we've started to look forward to Monday nights at home.

The ideal batch will start with a link of andouille. We prefer the kind that comes in a thick link, an inch or more in diameter, but the andouille you have is the right andouille. For us, the best case is to have a pound or two in the freezer, from Bourgeois' Meats in Thibodaux ("Miracles in Meat Since 1891!"). (We're not playing foodie; we just have to go to Thibby a lot these days, and Bourgeois visits are a nice little bonus.) Bourgeois' andouille is almost loose, chunky, and streaked with soft pockets of fat. Cut up a link, brown it a bit, and add a few tablespoons of trinity, some garlic, and a couple of chopped green onions. The seasonings just melt into the sausage fat. Add a couple of cans of Blue Runner, and thin it all with some stock - chicken, veggie, whatever you have on hand. Finish with salt, pepper, and heat - I like Schirachi and C likes Tabasco - and you're good. Since we're all about healthy eating, pop some brown rice into the ricemaker before you start chopping and opening cans, and you're all set. When you go back for seconds, as you will, take a minute to reheat it with a little more stock.

This is pretty much foolproof, which is why Blue Runner rules. C and I take turns with it, and it comes out spot-on perfect every time.


1/2 lb. thick andouille, cut in 1/4 inch chunks
2 green onions, chopped
1 oz. trinity
2 or 3 cloves garlic, smashed
Stock - chicken or veggie
2 small cans Blue Runner Creole Cream Style Red Beans
S&P (white pepper is a good choice)

First, put on your brown or white rice.

Then, saute the sausage and once it's rendered out some fat, stir in the green onions, trinity and garlic. Stir that until the seasonings soften, then add the red beans. Stir in stock until you like the texture (1/2 cup to a cup), and add a little salt and pepper. Let the flavors meld over a low fire until your rice is ready.

Serve over rice, and top with green onions and hot sauce. French bread is always a welcome addition.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

In which I fail and pass the "Eat Local" challenge

I thought about signing up for the Eat Local challenge last month. A 10 percent discount at Hollygrove Market and a signing bonus of a bag of salt from down around New Iberia was very tempting, but for those of us teaching summer classes at The People's University, by the lake, June is a month without a paycheck, so I couldn't swing the fee.

But thinking about the challenge got me paying attention to what I eat, and analyzing what I make versus what I buy prepared. I will never live a fully "eat local" life, and that's not a failure, it's a choice. I want coffee, I want champagne, I want brats from Wisconsin and salmon from the Northwest and I need to stock my shelf with pepper and other spices, so I make no apologies for that. And, as a general rule, most "do this, and only this" lifestyles end up with unintended consequences that undercut their well-meaning philosophies, so I don't gravitate toward manifestos.

But I do like buying from my friends and neighbors at the farmer's markets, at the grocery store, and in local eateries. After the storm, as we came back and started rebuilding our lives, I wanted to support the business people who invested in New Orleans and the surrounding area. I benefit, too, from the bounty of things we can harvest here, from the ground and from the waters. So I end up cooking with mostly local ingredients pretty much daily.

Last night I made a ratatouille, and as I chopped veggies I realized all but the tomato paste, bay leaves, salt and pepper and canned tomatoes came from the farmer's market and my own garden. On another burner was a pot of purple-hulled peas. I'd cured and smoked the bacon flavoring it. I'd picked a few okra from my garden and chopped them in. Tabasco's local. That leaves the onions (probably from Georgia), salt and pepper, and a little Sriracha (New York?)

That's a win, I think. Those peas were exquisite, in any case. Nothing beats freshly shelled peas.