Loyal readers–all 3 of you–of this blog should know that I love my slow-cooker, crock pot, whatever you want to call it. Whether it’s making barbecue or mulling cider, it’s a nice and easy “no fuss” method of cooking that you can prepare well in advance and cook mostly unattended. It’s a bit like those old films of “Life in the Future” mixed with modern film techniques. I dump ingredients into the device in the morning, turn a dial, press a button and go to work. Jump-cut to 8 hours later when I come home, lift the lid and deliciousness ensues. Ah the convenience of technology!
Admittedly most slow-cooker recipes aren’t so simple, but when America’s Test Kitchen came out with their Slow Cooker Revolution, I prodded them on Twitter to ask just how much pre-prep was required for their recipes. I was happy to hear that “most” of them don’t require a lot of work and once I got the book, it was nice to see many of the recipes marked as “Easy Prep.”
After finding their barbecue style chicken to be a huge improvement over my usual method, I was ready to give their Red Beans and Rice Stew a try. The dish is a household favorite, my other half naming it as one of his comfort foods. So I was definitely encouraged to see if I could skip the box mix and make it myself for a change. The ingredient list is simple enough for anyone with even a lightly stocked spice rack and a nearby grocery store. The only stumbling block is time. Slow-cooker recipes take a while–by virtue of the name, naturally–but this one needed 9-11 hours to cook on low and I always prefer to cook on low when I can. It also says 5-7 hours on high, but I prefer low. Also, they recommend salt-soaking the kidney beans overnight, though they also offer a method for quick soaking (as do most pre-bagged beans).
Since this was my first time making it, I didn’t want to let it cook overnight since some slow-cooker recipes need more attention than others. Believe me, now I know better! I did all the prep on the meat and veggies the night before, had everything staged and ready to go… for waking up at 6 the following morning to get things cooking. Pretty easy though, soften veggies, rinse beans, dump everything into the pot and back to sleep!
Red Beans and Rice Stew (serves 6)
- 2 onions, minced
- 1 celery rib, minced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried)
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
- 3 cups water
- 1 pound dried red kidney beans (2 1⁄2 cups), picked over, salt-soaked, and rinsed
- 1 pound andouille sausage. sliced 1⁄2 inch thick
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium
- 1⁄2 cup long-grain white rice
- salt and pepper
- red wine vinegar
- 3 scallions, sliced thin
- Microwave onions, celery, garlic, oil, thyme, paprika, and cayenne in bowl, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
- Stir broth, water, beans, sausage, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.
- Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves.
- Stir bell peppers and rice into stew, cover, and cook on high until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.) Season with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.
Aside from the overwhelming compulsion to lift the lid and stir it, this stew really doesn’t need a lot of babysitting. It’s also not very exciting to photograph, until you have a finished product.
I used Wild Boar Andouille sausage from Red Apron Butchery and it’s excellent though next time I think I might put an extra half-pound of sausage in the mix, or grill it separately to serve on top. I also bumped up the amount of rice to 3⁄4 cups and still didn’t feel like it was enough, so prepared another 1⁄2 cup (before cooking) rice separately and stirred it in. The Test Kitchen recipe is designed to make more of a stew, but I like my red beans and rice thicker. I’m always skeptical of adding dry rice to any meal, but giving it over 30 minutes to cook in was about the right time and it didn’t get too mushy. Next time I’ll try serving it over rice, but I admit that fast food and box mix versions have gotten me used to having it all mixed together.
The splash of red wine vinegar is definitely a must, but I usually skip garnishes so didn’t bother with the scallions. I might also replace the cayenne with chipotle in future as I like things spicy, but this dish makes me sweat when I eat it. Some might want that, but until I get the proper ingredients and glasses for hurricane cocktails at home, I need to take it easy! Once I figure out how to better hack the needed cook/prep time, I could see making this recipe a lot, especially in colder seasons.
I’m really impressed with Slow Cooker Revolution and am already planning my next slow cooker experiment. The lasagna recipe is tempting, but I think I’d like to try a dessert… or wings!