When I started this blog, I said I intended the share tales of the boundless generosity of my friends, but nothing prepared me for the extraordinary gift I received this past week from my old college pal, Bill Norton.
It turns out, that while I wasn't paying attention, Bill became an astounding and renowned pit master, charming his many friends in Charlottesville and beyond with the sumptuous bounty from his smoker. I've looked on, positively drooling, to photos on Facebook of his backyard exploits until I could take it no longer. When he showed pictures of the tasso ham he'd produced, I could no longer stifle my longings and just let out a resounding, "I want some!"
Sure enough, in no time, the mailman delivered me a box with my very own chunk of tasso: an ingredient I'd long lusted for and never been able to procure which was clearly key to my long-cherished red beans and rice recipe. Embarrassingly, I have no idea whence my recipe for that New Orleans mainstay came many years ago, I only knew it was good, darn good, and that's even without the long elusive tasso ham which always before I'd had to omit.
That being said, nothing prepared me for the depth of flavor and profound deliciousness of the red beans and rice I made this weekend with Bill's incredible present. I don't really understand the magic of it all. I mean, it's a great recipe which I've made successfully many times, but with the addition of that little chunk of tasso, well, words fail me.
I messaged Bill that he was a "doll" for sending me the tasso, which he seemed to think was outlandish. Now that I've eaten the red beans and rice which he made possible, I'm pleased to proclaim it from the mountaintop. Bill Norton is a doll, and I'm one lucky red beans and rice addict to have him as my old friend. Thanks, Bill. You made my week!
Red Beans and Rice
1 pound dried red beans
4 quarts water
2 meaty ham hocks
8 cups beef stock
4 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound andouille sausage
1/4 pound tasso ham, chopped
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
8 chorizo sausages or other fresh hot sausages
salt & pepper
rice wine vinegar to taste (optional)
4 cups cooked rice
hot pepper sauce to taste
Wash beans and soak overnight. Wash well under cold running water. Place beans, ham hocks and stock in an enormous, heavy pot. (Beans covered by 2 -3 inches of liquid. Bring to a boil, skim any scum that forms, and reduce heat to simmer. Add bay leaves, thyme, cayenne and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes while you prepare the vegetables and sausages.
Chop a quarter of the sausage and fry in a large skillet to render the fat. Add the remainder of the sausages and tasso and brown the meat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft. Add the bell pepper, scallions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the contents of the skillet to the red beans and continue to cook until they are soft and begin to break apart, about one hour.
Cook rice per instructions and serve red beans over the hot rice.