With all the news of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has been on my mind. I was there for Halloween 2003 and have very fond memories of hot weather, hot food, and hot men. In light of the overwhelmingly depressing news about the current situation in New Orleans, I needed something positive to think about. I decided on having Creole Red Beans and Rice as a tribute of sorts to one of my favorite cities.
Generally when I make red beans and rice, I just use a generic prepared spice mix for the seasoning. On this occasion that just would not do. I went online searching for a good recipe and settled on Chuck Taggart's Red Beans and Rice found on his website, The Gumbo Pages.
Here's a closer look at the assorted spices. Clockwise from the top is garlic powder, sweet basil, oregano, onion powder, cayenne, black peppercorns, thyme, and celery seed. In the center is paprika, the leading spice in the dish by volume.
Instead of a mock-sausage, I went with thinly sliced tempeh, marinated in soy sauce, tabasco sauce, and thyme. I discovered this combo by happy accident a while ago. This actually tastes a good deal like a cross between bacon and sausage.
Due to the tabasco sauce and thyme, the marinade flavor isn't very Asian at all, despite the soy sauce.
I've tried salt and water as a marinade for tempeh used in non-Asian dishes, and it just doesn't compare. Plus the soy sauce gives it such rich color when fried.
For the most meat-like flavor, it's imperative that you slice the tempeh very thinly (1/4 inch at least, less preferred). Otherwise, only the outer layer will be fried, leaving a moist center which won't taste as much like bacon/sausage. It's inevitable that some slices will be a bit too thin. Don't worry. Crumble them into small bits, let them soak in the leftover marinade, then fry them up after the slices are all done.
There was some serious volume to this mixture of onions, green bell peppers, and celery. I kept the heat on high for a good while and stirred well. There was plenty of water from the veggies to prevent scorching.
After adding vegetable broth and the creole spice mixture, I let the pot stew for a while before adding the beans. I used canned beans, which would've disintegrated if they had been added to the pot too early.
Dried kidney beans that had been soaked overnight would've been ideal, as the flavors would've penetrated the beans more. But I decided on this dish in the middle of day rather than the night before.
Creole Red Beans and Rice served with Steamed Lacinato Kale