So not knowing what to do with ham shanks, except knowing vaguely that they can be used to flavor beans, I turned to The Joy of Cooking. Whoooey I'm glad I did! In leafing through the vegetable section I came across a recipe for Red Beans and Rice. Red Beans and Rice, or my bastardized version of it got me through that poor decade of college. Of course back then Red Beans and Rice meant some cooked rice mixed with salsa and a can of kidney beans. It was fairly tasty and fairly cheap. I wish I knew then what I know now.
These Red Beans and Rice would have easily lasted me a week. The ingredients (minus the cost of the spices) come to a little less than $11. It's definitely a tasty meal and not some of the college "cheap" food that needed to be choked down (ahem, yes, I mean Ramen noodles). It's chock full of proteins and carbohydrates. And it's a stick to your ribs kind of meal that's perfect before a night of hitting the bars. Please, that's definitely a requirement for college food. I spent a decade in college. I'm pretty much an expert here.
Besides all that, these beans are really really good. They make a simple yet hearty meal. I'm sure the Brain and I will gobble up the leftovers. The Brain lived for a little bit in New Orleans and I'm hoping these beans bring back some happy memories for him. He's been a little swamped at work and I'm hoping these humble, yet delicious beans cheer him up.
Red Beans and Rice
from The Joy of Cooking
1 pound dried light red kidney beans
8 cups water
2 pounds smoked ham shanks
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed through garlic press
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1 pound smoked sausage cut into 1/2 inch slices
cooked white rice
Soak the beans overnight.
Bring the water, ham, celery, onion, green pepper, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, black pepper, and red pepper to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove the ham shanks and let them cool.
Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Return the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue simmering until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Add water if necessary to keep beans covered.
Remove the meat from the ham shanks and add it to the pot with the smoked sausage. Bring to a boil to warm the meat through. Serve over rice.