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Scotty’s Skillet: How to cook red beans and rice

Anyone who has read the Scotty’s Snacks series before (which is to say my editors, my parents and maybe some guy in, like, Delaware or something who mistakenly clicked on the link once thinking that it contained recipes for tattie scones or Scottish shortbread, only to promptly exit out of the tab when he discovered it was nothing more than a middle-American college kid writing thinly veiled rants about Kim Kardashian and Canadians under the guise of local restaurant reviews) knows that I love Cajun food.

Cajun food is a cuisine that transcends the bounds of ordinary language.”

I can’t get enough of it. It’s the perfect balance of spiciness, saltiness and subtlety, which is another way of saying that I really don’t know exactly how to describe what precisely it is I love about the cuisine, and so instead I will simply serenade you with some sweet, meaningless, general food-review-isms that make me sound as if I were kinda sorta an expert on this topic and not the hopeless, hulking ignoramus that I truly am.

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Or perhaps I could just say that I can’t come up with the words because Cajun food is a cuisine that transcends the bounds of ordinary language. Yes, I like that better actually. I think I’ll stick with that. It’s true, and it preserves my image as an individual who possesses a transcendent understanding of the holy mysteries of the culinary art form. Which, of course, I do.

Scotty Powell’s red beans and rice. (Skyler Pradhan | The Collegian)

That’s why I write about food in a newspaper. Because I’m an expert on it. Not because I may or may not happen to possess a rather damning video of our editor in chief singing a drunk rendition of “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga while sporting a platinum blonde wig and have threatened to go public with it if he doesn’t agree to publish all of my opinions to the masses.

Anyway, all that is to say Cajun food cannot be described; it must be experienced. If you’re looking for a nice salty, spicy and subtle culinary experience to help liven up your quarantine time, here’s a red beans and rice dish to try out.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil. Or 2. Or 3. I personally have a tendency to add about half a bottle to anything I cook, but that’s only because I find measuring spoons to be a pain to clean, so I try to use them as little as possible, opting instead to eyeball the quantity of each ingredient as I add it — a method that, given my hopeless sense of spatial perception, often yields disastrous results.
  • 1 pound smoked turkey sausage, roughly chopped. If you’d like, you can always substitute regular sausage for the turkey sausage. It just has more fat, which is perfectly fine if you’re the kind of person who spends your quarantine time doing things like jogging or walking or exercising or moving in any way, shape or form, rather than sitting, as I do, in a pile of discarded candy bar wrappers and sweat, horking down potato chips that you grab from your pantry with a little retractable dinosaur snapper toy you got at the Denver Zoo when you were 5.
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped. You can also use half of a large onion. Or, if you’re me, you can use an entire large onion thinking it’s a medium onion and make the dish extra pungent.
  • 1 medium green bell pepper. The bell pepper can be any color you choose — except for purple, because purple bell peppers don’t exist, or jazool because I just made that color up. I would strongly recommend using a green one though, mainly because it’s half the cost of its friends, ringing up at only 69 cents as opposed to $1.25. And as broke, desperate young people struggling to scrape by in these trying times, we don’t have the means to afford such high-end luxuries as the color yellow.
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped.
  • 2 15 ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed. Given the scarcity of just about every item necessary for survival in the grocery store these days, these might be a challenge to find. Indeed, I was only able to nab what I needed by body-checking an old man out of the way. Even then, the only cans I got were the rusty, dented ones with the labels half peeled off that the store hides at the back of the shelf so that they don’t embarrass their prettier, properly labeled siblings. If worst comes to worst, you can always just get some great northern beans, which I’ve found are in much greater supply, and mix them with some ketchup or mashed up Brazilian beetles to make them red. Beans are beans, after all.
  • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth. Or regular. In fact, go with regular, full sodium chicken broth. I know that I was just a few moments ago suggesting that you opt for healthier ingredients when preparing this recipe. However, in this case, I’m going to be honest with you; I would strongly recommend going with the full sodium broth. Yes, it might cause your blood cells to swell up to the size of small footballs, but when you take the salt out of chicken broth, all you have left is brown water — and there’s no use spending money on brown water from a box when you can just fish it out of the sewer for free.
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin.
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme.
  • 1 bay leaf.
  • A sh*t load of Cajun seasoning. Depending on how healthy your colon is and how much fiber you eat on a daily basis, a sh*t load could range anywhere from 2 tablespoons, to 1 cup, to 5 or 6 gallons if you happen to consume a lot of Taco Bell. I would suggest using a smaller, midmorning sized sh*t load for this recipe: the kind of sh*t load that follows a light breakfast consisting of maybe some toast and a yogurt parfait, nothing more than a few little bitty nuggets, roughly the size of a tablespoon. That being said, more Cajun seasoning never hurt anything, so if you feel like adding a Taco Bell-sized sh*t load, be my guest.
  • 3 cups cooked rice, white or brown. It doesn’t really matter. Because I’m a paranoid consumer of food blogs, which have led me to believe that refined carbohydrates like white rice are the sources of all suffering, sadness and misery in the world — indeed, I even read somewhere that Pandora’s box was not a box at all, but a plate of toasted Wonder Bread — I opt for brown rice. However, if you are one of the lucky few who has managed to stay above the kale-coated doomsday prophesying of the nutritional dark web, I’m sure white rice would work fine too, and it would probably taste less grainy.

Instructions:

  1. Cook the rice. If you have one, I would strongly recommend using a rice cooker for this step. If you’re feeling extra dangerous, you can try making it on the stove. However, in my personal experience, this is an exercise that only ever ends with a grains-geyser exploding all over your kitchen, which is never fun to clean up, unless you’re a dog, in which case food all over the floor is like a second Christmas.
  2. In a large pan, saute the onions, pepper and sausage in olive oil until sausage is browned and vegetables are soft. Every recipe everywhere says this should take about five minutes. However, this is a bald-faced lie. I was standing at my stove for at least 20 minutes waiting for these things to soften.
  3. Add the garlic, chicken broth, beans, cumin, thyme and bay leaf. Give it a little stir, grab a forkful and sneak a taste, making sure to lightly tap your lips together after you do so that any onlookers think that you’re just trying to make sure that all the subtle flavors — which, in reality, you have no clue how to detect or properly analyze — are coming through and not that you’re just trying to sneak an early helping.
  4. Cover and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced to half and the mixture has a nice gummy texture. Then mix in the rice and enjoy!

Scotty Powell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @scottysseus.

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