A few years ago Frank and I went to New Orleans during the first weekend of Mardi Gras. We didn't necessarily mean to, we had just decided sometime in November of the year before that we wanted to go to New Orleans for a long weekend and we chose a long weekend in February. A couple of reasons probably had something to do with this; we'd be real tired of Winter by then and needed an escape, New Orleans' weather in February is a lot more pleasant than say August, and February is Frank's birthday (the 1st if anybody's interested) and this would be part of his present and celebration. And boy what a celebration! We arrived on a Thursday evening and after dropping our stuff off at our hotel we went in search of food and since our hotel was only half a block from Bourbon Street that's where we headed. Quite the jolt that was, it was pure mayhem. People everywhere, loud, drunk people; all carrying giant cups of liquor and dumping them wherever they were standing when they gulped them down. Walking through these masses while kicking garbage out of the way in search of a place that wasn't busting at the seams with people to have some famed New Orleans food was a tad intimidating to say the least. We finally settled on a place right in the middle of the action and were greeted by a waitress that kept calling me gorgeous and Frank sweetie- we had burgers and then ran back to our hotel wondering what in Hell we'd gotten ourselves into. The initial shock wore off quickly the next morning when we ventured out to find a gloriously sunny day with streets gleaming and shining from the glare of the sunlight bouncing of the wet pavement, no garbage in sight. Apparently they bulldoze it away and wash the streets down at dawn before the cycle starts again somewhere near noon. That first morning we walked over to Royal street and peeked into a hidden courtyard with a charming coffee shop where Frank found his beloved morning buns which he had to have every morning. We got used to the craziness pretty quickly, did exploring during the day, learned how to walk around with "Go Cups" at night, got real excited when I got asked for ID everywhere I went, Frank even showed up after a stroll one evening wearing a whole bunch of beads that had been tossed at him from a balcony; somebody actually called him Elvis! (how drunk are these people?) We ate delicious food, chased after a chow chow who belonged to our tour guide in the Garden District when he decided to take off, watched a few parades and fought for beads... Then came Sunday and enough is enough. All this partying and debauchery can wear you down. But there is one New Orleans tradition which I had to do. It is tradition in New Orleans to have red beans and rice for dinner on Mondays, something to do with getting leftovers from all the weekend cooking and throwing them into a pot with red beans which pretty much cooks itself, I think. Unfortunately we were leaving on Monday morning but that wasn't going to stop me from having it. So we walked over to The Gumbo Shop, sat in their quaint courtyard, tried not to think about somebody yelling Stella!!!, and ate Monday red beans and rice, on Sunday. And since I'm not going to be in New Orleans any Monday (or Sunday) soon here is my version.
New Orleans Monday red beans...on Sunday.
1 16 oz. package of dried red kidney beans
1 ham hock
1 medium onion chopped coarsely
1 green bell pepper chopped coarsely
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 dried Spanish chorizo (I use Palacio) cut in chunks, about 6 ozs.
salt to taste
pepper to taste
cumin to taste
In a stockpot soak beans overnight in 4 to 6 cups of water
While beans are simmering, heat one tbsp of olive oil in a small skillet at high heat and sear the ham hock on all sides, add to the beans.
Add additional olive oil to the skillet, lower the heat to medium and sautee the onions, peppers and garlic for about ten minutes.
Season lightly with salt, pepper and cumin.
Add the tomato paste and stir into the onion mix. Add contents of skillet to the beans.
After 45 minutes, remove the ham hock to a cutting board and shred the pieces of ham off of the bone.
Serve over steamed white rice
and you're there.