Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mardi Gras, continued

For 17 years, I had a Gingerbread House Party every year. Started out small, cookies and kids; ended up out-of-control when the newspaper covered it and the wire services picked up the story. I had friends and relatives coming OUT of the woodwork. Haven't had that party in...three?...years. But when I DID, this menu was what I served. Sure, it was Christmas time but hey, everyone else was cooking ham and turkey.
Red Beans & Rice
Old Fashioned Bread Pudding (Preceding post)
French bread
That and cold beer is all you need, it can all be prepared ahead of time and there's something there for everyone.

Red Beans & Rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bag frozen seasoning blend
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 pound ham, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 package smoked sausage
1 pound dried red beans

Rinse and sort the beans, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let stand , covered, for at least an hour...overnight is okay.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the seasoning blend and garlic for about five minutes. Add salt, cayenne, pepper, thyme and bay leaves, saute for another couple of minutes and then add the ham and sausage. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and let everybody make friends, about ten minutes.

Drain the beans, add them to the pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for about two hours. Stir occasionally and add water if needed. THEN, and this is how you get that texture, every time you wander past the pot, take a wooden spoon and mash some of the beans against the side of the pot...you're aiming to mash about half. Cook for about another hour, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft.

Serve over rice. I like the boil-in-a-bag stuff; I have friends who swear by Zatarain's.

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