One of the most popular dishes known to Louisiana Creole is the red beans and rice recipe. While not much is known about the origins of the dish, many people believe that it was made on Mondays (washday) because the laundry left very little time for cooking or anything else.
Although washdays were certainly a reason for this popular Creole recipe, some also speculated that it was made because it was a cheap food. Since Louisianans were known for their large families, money was often a problem and the dish was reasonable enough to make throughout the week.
Because the dish didn’t require much preparation and could be left unattended for quite some time, it became a popular household food in the early years. To further the ease of cooking and stretch what money they had, a Louisiana family’s Sunday night’s dinner usually consisted of ham, so that the bone could be used for Monday’s dish.
Most Creole cooks claim that the ham must come from a baked ham, pickled pork or salt pork. Anything else simply would not make for an authentic dish. Today however, the dish is created using ham, pork and even sausage.
Many of us assume that the bean used in the dish is kidney, however some cooks prefer small South Louisiana red beans instead, due to their faint flavor verses a kidney bean’s strong taste. Sometimes for variety and often because of the lack of availability, a white bean was used instead of red. The beans were then added to a pot with celery, onions, garlic, cayenne pepper, thyme and salt.
Many Louisianans insist that the beans should be creamy in texture, yet still firm. To achieve this, the cook may choose to mash 1/4 cup of the beans or add a small amount of butter to the pot near the end of the cooking time.
The white rice is generally made in a separate pot and served under or beside the beans. The entire dish is then served with a bottle of hot sauce on the side for those who prefer a spicier meal.
Even though washdays are no longer carried on in Louisiana households, red beans and rice is still a favorite staple with many families all over the world. The dish is even found in Central America where it goes by the name of “arroz con habichuela.”
Still, the dish is perhaps the best known Cajun recipe and can be found in not only local homes, but also restaurants and during the Mardi Gras celebration as well.