A big bowl of red beans and rice, maybe a few links of spicy sausage, a small loaf of hot French bread, and bottles of ice-cold Dixie beer—such is the traditional menu on any given Monday in homes, cafés, and unpretentious restaurants throughout the Louisiana Delta and in New Orleans. No matter that the beans and rice can contain ham hocks, diced chicken, smoked sausage, salt pork, or a local packaged seasoning called “pickled pork”—depending on the self-appointed authority in the kitchen. So long as the beans and rice are tender and well-flavored and there’s a bowl of chopped red onions to sprinkle over the top, everybody’s happy. “Don’t you ever eat a salad or some slaw to cut all that starch and fat?” I once asked a proudly stout local in Thibodaux. “Boy, if you gotta have stuff like that, you shouldn’t be eatin’ red beans and rice,” he snapped indignantly.
Place the kidney beans in a large, heavy pot with enough cold water to cover by
Heat the oil in the pot over moderate heat, add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, and stir till the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Return the soaked beans to the pot and add the sausage, red pepper, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper, vinegar, and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a low simmer, cover, and cook till the beans are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 35 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the rice, chicken broth, ham, and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate, cover, and cook till all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
In a large serving bowl, combine the beans-and-rice mixture, stir well, and serve with chopped red onion sprinkled over each portion.
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