I’m about as Southern as a polar bear but I’ve always had a weak spot of Creole and Cajun cuisine. I suspect that the hearty, melded stewed flavors with a healthy dose of spicy heat as well as aromatic spice just appeal to my eclectic palate. That and the fact that since I live in the northern climes, robust, belly-warming staples like gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice go together with damp chilly weather like ice cream on a hot day. What I find most fascinating about beans and rice is its cultural ubiquity, the spices and accessory ingredients vary depending on the clime and culture but that starchy rice and those creamy proteinaceous beans make an appearance from Cuba (Moros y Christanos) to Japan (お赤飯 osekihan) to Valencia (paella). I suspect part of the appeal is the fact that rice and beans are relatively cheap as ingredients go, nutritious, filling, and fairly easy to prepare but just because you start with humble beginnings doesn’t mean that you’re missing out on flavor cuz that’s where your individual seasonings and cultural flair can be highlighted. This incarnation of red beans and rice is Creole inspired as it involves tomatoes but I’ve added smoky flavor with bacon and andouille sausage as well. Both Cajun and Creole cooking uses bell pepper instead carrot to make their mirepoix (I guess carrots were hard to come by in the new world?) and the bevy of hot and aromatic spices help to add more layers to the sauce. I prefer a hot sauce with vinegar in it as that seems to help enhance the tomato flavor and the sweetness of the Worcestershire sauce rounds everything out.
1) What’s the difference between Creole and Cajun cuisine? Apparently back in the day, tomatoes weren’t so easy to come by on the southern seaboard so in order to cook with tomatoes, you had to have money and for the most part, the ruling class were the Creoles vs their working class Cajun cousins. Actually, the term Cajun was derived from les Acadians, French immigrants from the Acadian region of Northeastern Canada while Creole is Spanish from the term criollo loosely meaning “mixed breed” and the Creoles were descended from ruling class Spanish and French colonists so they weren’t really related except for by geography and distant French culture. So since Creole households had more money and servants, their cuisine contained exotic/hard to find in the new world ingredients like tomatoes and butter and more complex cooking methods like puréed bisques versus Cajun cooking which needed to be accomplished in the context of a full working day using ingredients acquired locally like wild game (alligator and crawfish anyone?), lard, and involved creative ways to preserve meats like smoking sausage into that yummy classic andouille.
6 oz andouille sausage, in 1/2-inch rounds
1 strip bacon, diced
1 small (~1 c) sweet onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper (~1/2 c), seeded and diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 tsp (2 cloves) crushed garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp hot sauce like Tabasco or Crystal (I used a Creole chili pepper and vinegar-based sauce from the Caribbean)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 c low-salt chicken stock
4 c steamed rice
In a medium-sized ~2 quart pot brown sausage and bacon over medium heat till fat is rendered ~4-5 minutes. Using a paper towel and tongs blot out fat till just 1-2 tsp remain. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery and sauté till tender and onion is translucent ~4-5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and bay leaf and sauté till garlic is golden ~1-2 minutes. Add hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, beans, and stock then simmer till reduced by 1/3 ~15-20 minutes. Serve over rice. Makes 4 servings.
**Based on my informal calculations 1 serving contains about 770 calories, 15 g fat, 40 g protein, 120 g carbohydrate, 19 g fiber, 13% of the RDA for calcium, 48% iron, and 61% vitamin C. However, since most of the rendered fat from the sausage and bacon were removed I suspect the calorie and fat estimations are a bit high.