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Recipe – Oktyabr’s Red Beans and Rice July 3, 2010

Posted by oktyabr in food, personal, recipes.

This is one of my favorite dishes and it’s cheap and easy to make too, if you have the patience. I first got plagued with the idea of trying it myself not long after all the cooking shows seemed to be doing spots on New Orleans during the hurricane recovery. Two or three shows mentioned the “traditional” dish “red beans and rice” but never went into detail over how it’s made. Several recipes I found online say that it’s origins are in making something out of the leftovers of a “traditional” (Catholic?) Sunday baked ham. Easy to start the beans soaking on Sunday and serve up on Monday!  One reference I found referred to using EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and bottled hot sauce as condiments with this dish as “Jamaican Style Red Beans and Rice” which is how I prefer it.  Since then I’ve also seen real recipes of the “Jamaican Style” that introduce coconut milk and hot peppers right in the dish.  I haven’t tried these yet but I will!

In a single paragraph (the quick and dirty method):

Prepare small red beans, (not pintos!) canned or dry, according to directions.  While cooking flavor with some finely grated carrot, onion, celery and maybe bell pepper.  Season with garlic, salt, pepper, some garlic and a couple of dry bay leaves if on hand (really only useful if slow cooking for several hours).  Cooking with a cured pork product such as bacon, left over ham, or whole smoked ham hocks is “traditional” but I’ve read that substituting smoked paprika in place of the meat can make a tasty vegetarian alternative.  Cook as long as practical, beans should be quite tender when done.  Mash up 1/4 – 1/2 of the beans in the pot to make a “gravy” out of the leftover water and to help thicken the dish.  Serve by spooning over an equal portion of cooked, long grain white rice (Thai Royal Jasmine white rice is divine in this dish).  Drizzle with plenty of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and have a bottle of hot sauce at hand for those that like to spice it up.  Enjoy!

Will serve at least four:


1 16oz bag of dried “red beans”. You can substitute pinto beans in a pinch but they are NOT the same!

1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped fine (skip the “sweet” onions and go with the strong ones… better for cooking!)

1 or 2 large carrots, grated fine.

2 sticks celery, chopped fine

1 green or red bell pepper, cleaned (cored and deseeded) and chopped fine (optional and usually skipped in my house as I’m the only one that likes it!)

2 to 4* cups white rice, uncooked (I prefer real Thai “Jasmine” rice when available)

2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed (optional)

2 dried bay leaves

1 or 2 lbs of some sort of cured pork product, usually ham. For a meat “light” version ask the butcher for a couple of smoked ham hocks which will be used just for flavoring. You can pick some of the meat off the hocks but there isn’t much! Some bacon works well too in this recipe.

Extra virgin olive oil. For use as a condiment.  Put the bottle right on the table!  If you don’t own this incredibly tasty and good for you oil you should! Skimp a bit and look up one shelf above the cheapest stuff and buy a half way good brand. But definitely “extra virgin”!!! I prefer Carapelli brand or Star.

Cayenne pepper sauce! For use as a condiment.  I find that “Frank’s Redhot” is light on the heat with enough vinegar to add a nice tang to the dish. Tobasco is a step up on the heat scale in the same direction. Melinda’s is even better but hard to find.


1) Follow the directions on the beans. This will usually entail washing them and then leaving them to soak covered in water for at least 6-8 hours. Over night is better. Rinse the beans, put them back in the pot and cover with at least two inches of water. Bring to a boil. Let boil but do not let the water evaporate below the level of the beans! Add more if needed. A good pinch or two of salt here is a good idea too. Careful with the salt! The pork (depending on what you use) is likely to contribute salt to the dish as well.

2) Chop or shred the bacon or ham and throw it in the pot. Ham hocks can go in whole. Toss in the bay leaves as well.

3) Boil slow for at least an hour stirring occasionally. Let the water reduce to just above the level of the beans, add a bit more as necessary. After an hour or so you should just be able to bite a bean in half without breaking a tooth! If still rock hard let boil for another half an hour and try it again. Reduce heat to medium-low (a few bubbles, not boiling)…

4) Mince the onion quite small. Put it in the pot. Clean the seeds and stem from the bell pepper (or skip the pepper entirely), chop small and put in the pot. Celery can also be chopped or grate it finely with a cheese grater. Grate the carrots very fine as well. Add both to the pot.  Add bay leaves and crushed garlic.

5) Cover the pot and let simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally. Test a bean by biting it, should be tender. If not tender stir a bit more, recover and let cook another half hour. Patience! Once tender enough to smash with a fork mash up approximately half of the beans in the pot and stir well. This will help thicken the dish and make it more like a gravy than just “beans”. At this point you can call it done and work on the rice! Leave it covered on very low heat, stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick and burn! Add a little more water if too thick.

6) Cook the rice according to directions. I use a rice cooker. If you don’t have one this recipe works well (be sure to double it!): http://teriskitchen.com/grains/rice-b.html


I usually like to let people “do their own thing”. The rice and beans together is the “traditional” version. To make it “Jamaican Style”, my favorite:

Spoon the rice into the bottom of a bowl. Cover with maybe half as much of the bean mixture in a “donut” shape so a little white rice can be seen around the edge of the bowl and a little hole is in the center of the beans.  Let each person drizzle extra virgin olive oil (to taste) over the bowl being especially sure that some gets through the beans into the rice. Dose liberally with Frank’s RedHot or your other favorite cayenne pepper sauce.



It’s hard to judge the correct ratio of beans and rice in both preparation and serving! Using two cups of rice will usually be enough that those people that might be a bit flaky about eating so much rice will be able to dish it out half beans/half rice… and you still might have some beans left over!

*Rice is usually cheaper and easier to make than beans so I actually make three to four cups of rice to make sure I have enough (my family eats rice though too!) Even then it’s rare that rice gets thrown away in my house. Plan on a cup of rice per person if this dish is to be served as “the main course”.

The beans, if there are any left, go into the icebox in a storage container to be eaten in the next day or two or in the freezer to be eaten in the next month or two! Rice tends to dry out even in a sealed container so it’s usually easier (and tastier!) to just make fresh rice to go with left over beans the next time you serve it up.

Try to find Frank’s Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce! It’s really quite mild and can be used liberally not only on this dish but to flavor chowder, stew, pizza, burgers on the grill, whatever.

The extra virgin olive oil IS a main part of this dish for me. Especially when combined with the rest of the dish and a good dousing of Frank’s on top it makes a flavor combination happen that just can’t be described… except maybe that it’s one of those things that sticks in your head months after you have it and you crave it! If you aren’t used to eating “raw” extra virgin olive oil (yes the “extra virgin” is important and yes, a good brand is too!) you might be surprised with this recipe.



1. Berry - July 4, 2010

This is one of my favourite recipes. I like it 🙂

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