Duane Nutter, executive chef, One Flew South, was eight years old when he and his mother left Morgan City, Louisiana—a town of 12,000 built on the petroleum and shrimping industries, about an hour’s drive west of New Orleans—for Seattle, Washington. It didn’t take long for them to lose their longing for river catfish in favor of the Pacific salmon and halibut. “But we still had to have our red beans and rice on Mondays,” says Rosiland Russell-Nutter, who now shares a home with her son in Mableton. The time-honored Louisiana dish began as a simple washday tradition: Women could put a pot of beans on the stove with Sunday night’s ham bone to simmer most of the day, while they toiled over mountains of laundry. Electric washers and dryers may have eliminated the need for a designated washday in most families—but not the craving for red beans and rice, and its “original, back-in-the-day smell,” as Nutter puts it.
This humble comfort fare would seem highly out of place in the fancy restaurant settings Nutter’s been cooking in most of his adult life. But it did turn up on a menu he prepared at the AAA five-diamond Seelbach Hilton Oakroom in Louisville, Kentucky: “For that dish, I pureed the beans and paired them with dirty rice, and topped it off with a piece of bacon-wrapped monkfish.”
1 pound dried red kidney beans (Camellia brand, if possible)
8 to 10 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
4 bay leaves
1 pound andouille sausage, cut in 1/2-inch slices
2 tablespoons shortening or duck fat (see note)
1 bunch flat Italian parsley, enough to make about 1 cup finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped finely together with the parsley
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
6 to 8 cups hot, cooked long-grain white rice
Chopped green onions for garnish
1. Sort and rinse beans; soak in water to cover overnight. For quick-soaked beans: Place beans in a large saucepan and cover with triple their volume of cold water. Bring water to a boil and cook beans, uncovered, over medium heat 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, let soak for 1 hour.
2. Drain beans; place in a large pot and add 8 to 10 cups water. Add onions, bell pepper, bay leaves, sausage, and duck fat or shortening. Bring to a gentle boil, uncovered; stir occasionally about 1 1/2 hours or until beans are soft. Add water as needed to avoid sticking. For creamy beans, mash some of the cooked beans against side of the pot with the back of a large spoon and stir back into mixture.
3. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley leaves with the garlic cloves. At the end of cooking, add the garlic and parsley mixture just before turning off the stove. Taste and add a pinch of cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Stir, and serve over rice. Sprinkle with chopped green onions.
Note: For his rendition, Nutter used duck andouille sausage and duck fat from the Spotted Trotter, a new charcuterie in Kirkwood. Check availability or inquire about special ordering ahead of time.
This is an extended version of an article that originally appeared in our March 2012 issue.