Vegetarian Friday: Slow-cooker red beans

This is not a quick, easy recipe like the ones I normally post. It’s time-consuming. It involves some advance planning and a lot more ingredients than usual. And it is TOTALLY worth the effort.

If you want a quick version you can throw on the table in 20 minutes or less, with very little prep, I posted one a couple of years ago. What I’m posting today is the version you make when fall is finally settling in, the nights are just a little too cool for comfort, and you need something comforting and familiar with a kick of spice to warm you up.

Red beans absolutely MUST soak for 8-10 hours before you cook them, and they need to cook for a long time, so round up your ingredients ahead of time. This recipe is a variant of one I first tasted at a potluck during Twangfest in St. Louis about 16 years ago. The lady who made it shared the recipe, which in turn was a variant of one from a cookbook published as a parish fundraiser by the Holy Rosary School in Larose, Louisiana. She modified the original recipe for vegetarian purposes; I modified her version (which was baked for several hours) to work in a Crock-Pot, adjusted the proportions based on some stuff I needed to use up last night, and substituted a jar of my mom’s home-canned tomatoes and — of course — a hefty helping of roasted New Mexico chiles for the Ro-Tel listed in the original recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 lb. dried red beans
1/4 pkg. dry yeast
3-4 ribs of celery
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. roasted green chiles
1 bunch green onions
5-6 cloves garlic
3-4 sprigs cilantro or parsley
1/4 c. Guinness or other stout
1 can whole tomatoes
1/3 pkg. Soyrizo (optional but SO good)
Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper
Salt
1 can cheap beer (Stag, Budweiser, etc.)
3 bay leaves

Day 1: Place beans in crock, cover with water, and sprinkle with yeast. Let sit for at least 8-10 hours — overnight, while you’re at work, whatever.

Day 2: Drain and rinse beans. Cover with water and turn on Crock-Pot to high.

Split each rib of celery down the middle a couple of times, then chop finely. Coat the bottom of a large cast-iron skillet with olive oil, turn on the burner, and dump in the celery. Push it around occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula.

While celery sautes, chop up the bell pepper. Add it to the skillet and stir.

Let the celery and pepper cook over medium heat for a few minutes, then add green chiles and stir. While the mixture cooks, chop the onion finely and add it to the pan. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is clear and starts to brown.

While the onion mixture cooks, peel the garlic. Lay the flat side of a chef’s knife on top of each clove and strike the flat of the blade sharply with your fist to crush the garlic. (Bruising it this way releases the flavor better.) Chop the crushed garlic finely.

Cut the root ends off the green onions and chop finely. Chop the cilantro or parsley finely. Add garlic, green onions and cilantro to the pan and cook for 30 seconds to a minute — just long enough to warm up the garlic a bit and release more flavor.

Add all the sauteed vegetables to the Crock-Pot.

Deglaze the pan with Guinness and add the deglazing liquid to the Crock-Pot. Stir.

Drain tomatoes and dump into skillet. Use wooden spoon or spatula to break them up into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle heavily with salt and pepper and simmer briefly, then add Soyrizo, breaking it up with a spoon as you mix it in. Let simmer a couple of minutes.

Dump tomato mixture into Crock-Pot. Deglaze the pan with the cheap beer. Pour the deglazing liquid into the Crock-Pot, stir in the rest of the cheap beer, and add bay leaves.

Cook 8-10 hours until beans are done. (They will be soft but not mushy — think al dente pasta, but in bean form. Red beans are always firmer than pintos or black beans, but they shouldn’t be hard in the middle.)

Serve over rice or couscous with plenty of Louisiana-style hot sauce available for those who like it spicier. (Rice is traditional, but I ran out and forgot to buy more, so we settled for whole-wheat couscous.)

Ridiculously time-consuming but inarguably wonderful.

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