In 2001, I was invited to the Nebraska Cornhusker Club of Tulsa to a watch party for the national championship football game. I have attended these events before for my beloved Oklahoma Sooners. I’ve joined the Sooner Clubs of Las Vegas and Nashville to watch games, but this was the first time I had attended an event for a team that I don’t follow closely and also a rival of my favorite college team.
To say that I enjoyed the night would be an understatement. The event was held at a Tulsa restaurant, that I don’t even remember the name of, which had a large private area which the Cornhusker Club had reserved. The event started well before the games kick-off, where there was plenty of food and drink available. Of course, hopes were high and by kick-off the crowd, I’m guessing around 100 people were there, were starting to get pumped up and ready for the game. It was a great atmosphere. Well, the game started, and Nebraska got absolutely blown away in this game. By halftime, everybody, including me, started heading for the door. My excuse being I had to drive back to Miami and go to work the next morning. But, it was something I’ll never forget and the best thing besides eating all the good food, was the opportunity to meet and mingle with people that I normally would never had made an acquaintance of.
Recently, I attended a similar event to watch a national championship game involving another team I have no ties to. A local friend of mine who is a Louisiana native invited me over with some others to watch his beloved LSU Tigers play for a national title. When he extended me the invitation he mentioned the fact that he would be serving authentic Cajun food at his party. Well, what was I going to say, No? Are you kidding me, authentic Cajun food and good company, I wouldn’t have cared if the game was between Slippery Rock and West Toledo, I was going! Of course I also volunteered to help out with the menu, and since my Cajun cooking skills are limited, I asked if I could make a pot of red beans, to go along with his Jambalaya and other Cajun fare. He said, of course.
Well, since I have never been to Louisiana, I could only imagine what authentic Cajun Red Beans would consist of and go from there. So I got started and decided that besides Cajun seasoning the meat and veggies would be an important part of pulling this off. Since I didn’t have any alligator or fresh gulf coast fare, I needed to figure out what to use. So, the first thing that came to mind was Andouille sausage, ham, and of course, bacon. After all, who doesn’t like bacon? Then, in my mind anyway, a Cajun dish has to have onion, celery, and green pepper in it, doesn’t it? Heck I don’t know, but it went into the pot and whether my beans ended up being authentic Cajun or not doesn’t really matter, because they did turn out authentically good.
Cajun Red Beans
2 lb Red beans, soaked
4 slices bacon chopped, retain the drippings
½ bell pepper, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Cajun Seasoning to taste
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
salt and black pepper to taste
Chopped spiral cut ham pieces
8 cups of chicken broth
4 green onions, chopped
1 package 14 ounce smoked sausage ½ “thick sliced
¼ teaspoon thyme
Rinse and sort beans and place into a deep pot, adding water to cover beans, soak overnight in fridge.
Fry the chopped bacon pieces, remove and leave bacon drippings in the pot. Cut sausage into 1-inch chunks and add to grease, cooking until browned; remove and set aside. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and sauté the veggies until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Worcestershire, and black pepper to the vegetable mixture and continue cooking for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the ham, beans, sausage, basil, thyme, sweet paprika, and the 2 quarts of chicken stock.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until beans are tender and slightly thickened. Taste and adjust for seasonings, adding salt only if needed. Serve over hot, cooked rice and garnish with sliced green onion and parsley.
Notes: If you need to thicken beans further, remove about a cup of the beans and mash them with a fork, returning them to the pot.