Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Man Can Cook #21 - Red Beans & Rice.....for 70

Cooking a meal for 2-4 folks is one thing, doing it for a large crowd is quite another. Most recipes can be fairly easily multiplied up to the appropriate quantity. The problem, if you are feeding a large group often centers though on prep-time and cost.

Large parties are large work and you'd rather spend a bit of time at least enjoying the party as opposed to being exiled to the kitchen like Steve McQueen in Papillon......you imagine yourself as Steve McQueen too don't you? Of course you do.

The other factor is cost. When preparing a normal recipe for guests it's not a really big deal to spend a bit extra on top-shelf ingredients. Besides, you like to make things extra nice for guests. But when that recipe gets blown up 16x from original the costs can go up quickly.

Last weekend I cooked dinner for 70 at a party for a club that both Kathy and I are members of. The entree was a roast whole hog, but as a side dish I prepared a "New Orleans Style" Red Beans & Rice. I found a recipe to use as a framework then tweaked it here and there to keep the cost reasonable and still deliver a great dish for our friends.

Most Red Beans & Rice recipes call for Andouille Sausage and Tasso Ham. Both ingredients that on their own and in modest quantity aren't exorbitantly priced. But when you are talking about 8lbs of each....well. So instead I found some rather inexpensive smoked pork shoulder, cubed it and seasoned it with a cajun spice mix and used that to replace the Andouille both in terms of meat contribution and flavor. I cooked the dish outside at a campground using a combination of a turkey fryer burner to get things boiling and a large camp stove to simmer. You could do the same thing using your largest burner on your stove and a smaller one to simmer.

 The quantity here is intended for a side dish. If you are using this as an entree for a similar group you'll need to expand.

2ea 10ga Stock Pot (the thicker the bottom is the better, it's easy to scorch the bottom and ruin the dish)
Long stirring device
Long BBQ Tongs

4lbs Smoked Pork Shoulder (3/4" dice)
3 Smoked Pork Shanks (split) (These offer more meat and the same flavor as hocks, if you can't find them just use 4-5 hocks)
1lb Bacon
8 Onions (Coarsely chopped)
4 Green Bell Peppers (Coarsely chopped)
4 Red Bell Peppers (Coarsely chopped)
8 Ribs Celery  (Coarsely chopped)
16 Garlic Cloves (Diced)
8tsp Thyme
3tsp Salt
4tsp Pepper
4 Bay Leaves
1 #10 Can Tomatoes (Canned, drained, chopped)
3 #10 Cans Red beans (Canned, drained)
90oz Chicken Broth (Canned, low-salt)
12Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
8Tbsp Hot Sauce (Crystal brand works best with NOLA style cooking)
4oz Cajun Seasoning (Your own blend or just use Tony Cachere's or similar)
72oz Box of Instant Rice

Step 1: The night before your cook break down the ham and place it in gallon sized ziplock bags with the cajun seasoning.

Step 2:  Take about 20% of your beans and puree them in a food processor or blender and set them aside for later.

Step 3: Fry your bacon in your stock pot. Remove the bacon, retaining the fat in the pan. Chop the bacon and set it aside. Then add your ham to the pot and brown it. Keep and eye on the bottom of the pot. If it looks like the fond is beginning to burn, add a bit of your stock to keep things damp.

Step 4: Add your chopped vegetables, Garlic, herbs and spices and cook until the Onions & Peppers begin to get soft. Keep stirring to removed all the crunchy bits from the bottom of the pot.

Step 5: Add Chicken Broth, Beans (pureed and whole), Tomatoes, Vinegar, Hot Sauce, Ham Hocks (or shanks) and bacon. Bring the heat up and get the pot to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Allow this to simmer for about 2hrs. Check your seasoning as it cooks but be careful, what tastes right in the pot will taste a bit saltier when combined with the rice.

Step 6: Remove your ham hocks from the pot and separate the meat from the bones, skin and gristle. Add the meat back to the pot and discard the rest. Cook the rice according to the package directions in a separate pot and serve.

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