Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just Use Your Imagination Red Beans and Rice

There are only two women in the world that I respect in the kitchen as seasoned professionals. They are my mother and a woman by the name of Mary Lynn Andrews.

Like most great cooks, both of these women were heavily influenced by the regions in which they were raised. And for Mary Lynn, that would be the great city of New Orleans.

Mary Lynn Andrews was born Mary Lynn Sheperd in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1937. She married Bill Andrews and moved to Greenville, Mississippi which is where I became acquainted with her culinary skills. She is the mother of one of my best friends from college and when we were much younger, we would make the trek from Oxford to her home where she would feed us until I could stand no more.

She can cook many things well but the biggie that will make a man sell his soul to the devil is her red beans. To this day, I have never tasted anything like them and will crawl on my hands and knees just to have her fill up my bowl.

For years, she would cook them for me and freeze them in zip-locks when I would come to town. Then when I moved back to Texas, I pitched an absolute fit just trying to get the recipe. I must have tried for 5 or so years in complete frustration and finally she gave me the ingredients but could never give me the measurements. She just didn’t use measurements. Her famous quote when asked about measurements was simply, “Just use your imagination.” My response back was, “I can think of many things with my imagination that might happen if I don’t get that recipe.”

She would never budge off this page which would prompt me to start pushing on her daughter in Memphis. She felt sorry for me and told me to just try adding teaspoons at a time until I thought it tasted right. Exhausted from all of this, I decided to give it the old college try.

Now if you’re going to do this, you really have to try and do it by feel. By this I mean judge the flavor for yourself and give it some time to cook down. Really try to savor what you’re doing and don’t just walk off and leave it.

Here is the “Just Use Your Imagination” recipe below:

1 lb of Camillia Red Kidney Beans (There is really no substitute for this. It has to be this brand if you want it to taste right. And I’ve only found them in New Orleans but you can order them on-line.)

2 sticks of celery chopped

1 onion chopped

6 garlic cloves chopped

ham hock (smoked)

Andouille sausage links sliced

Tony’s Seasoning (1 Tablespoon)

Tarragon (1 teaspoon)

Oregano (1 teaspoon)

Old Bay Seasoning (1 Tablespoon)

Cook onions, garlic, celery and sausage in a tablespoon of bacon grease until tender. Add ham hock, beans and water into pot. Make sure the water is about 2 or so inches above the beans. (You’ll need to add water as it boils down.) Add Tony’s, Tarragon, Oregano and Old Bay seasonings. I would recommend adding teaspoons of each at first and tasting it as you go. Bring beans to a boil and then bring the heat down and let it simmer. Cook until beans are just about to fall apart which takes some time as they are very hearty beans.

Serve over rice and I recommend ice cold beer. Cornbread is not a bad way to go either.

Enjoy and good eating.

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