I live in western Massachusetts, and so far this year we’ve had a day of tornados in the spring, a slight earthquake and a major hurricane in the summer, and just a few days ago a totally unexpected, out of nowhere, fall snow storm! The latter, a true Nor’easter, did so much damage that almost everyone in our little college town ended up for the better part of a week without power or heat, and in some cases without phone and water.
At my house we had no electricity or heat, but my trusty Viking gas stove top worked, making it possible for me to cook during the black out. The first dish I made was “quick” red beans and rice. Instead of following tradition and using dried beans, which are soaked, and then simmered slowly with ham hocks for several hours, I used canned ones, rinsing them off first to remove their salty taste.
Next, I sautéed bits of bacon in a big cast iron skillet until crisp, then saved a little of the drippings for sautéing onions and garlic. Finally I added the beans along with seasonings of dried tarragon, vinegar, and Dijon mustard to the pan. A dash of cayenne pepper and a splash of Tabasco provided some heat. The bean mixture was covered in water and then cooked down over a period of about 20 minutes until all the flavors had melded.
For serving, I ladled the beans atop mounds of white rice, then garnished them with a sprinkling of chopped onions, parsley, and crumbled bacon. After this week’s perilous storm I’ve renamed this easy, inexpensive main course: “emergency red beans and rice.”
6 slices bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
1 l3/4 cups chopped onion, divided
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can plus 1 14-ounce can kidney beans, either red or dark red or a combination
of both, placed in a colander and rinsed under cold water for a minute
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar (see note)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Kosher salt plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more for a spicier taste)
2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked long grain white rice
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Place a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add the bacon slices and sauté until crisp and browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Then crumble coarsely and reserve for the garnish
Pour off and discard all but 2 teaspoons of the drippings. Add olive or canola oil to the pan and set over medium high heat. When hot, add 1 1/2 cups of the onions and sauté, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and stir a minute more. Add the beans, dried tarragon, vinegar, mustard, salt, Tabasco sauce, and cayenne to the pan. Cover the mixture with water and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook the bean mixture, uncovered, until most of the water had evaporated, 6 to 8 minutes or less. Add more water to cover and repeat for another 6 to 8 minutes or less. Taste the beans and add more salt and cayenne pepper to taste. You can even add more mustard and vinegar if you'd like to sharpen the flavors. If the bean mixture is too thick, lighten it with a little more water. (The beans can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat, adding more water to make certain that they don’t stick.)
To serve, place a mound of rice in each of four shallow bowls, ladle the red beans over the rice, and sprinkle each serving with crumbled bacon, some of the remaining chopped onion, and parsley. Serves 4.
Note: If you don’t have tarragon white wine vinegar, use white wine vinegar and add a generous extra pinch of dried tarragon to the beans.