American Classics III: Creole In A Bowl Transcript

The Kitchen

    [a la General Patton, AB is standing in front of a large American flag] Hello, fellow American cooks. It is time once again to celebrate classic American cuisine here on Good Eats. [the flag rises revealing the kitchen]

    In this spinning raffle drum there are hundreds of cards, and on each card there is a name of a dish from the great American menu. And one of these lucky applications is about to get the patented Good Eats go-over. And today's lucky dish is ... Ooh, hot diggity dog. One of my all-time favorites. The often misunderstood poster dish for New Orleans: red beans and rice. It's historic. It's nutritious. It's not a lot of work. And with just a little bit of love and understanding, it is abso-definite-tively ...

Red Beans & Rice

[Good Eats Theme]

Harry's Farmers Market
Marietta, GA – 10:23 am

    No dish represents Creole cuisine like beans and rice. And by "Creole", we mean the cuisine of New Orleans, right? Well, not so fast. Truth is, New Orleans is the great northern capital of a Creole empire encompassing Cuba, Puerto Rico, and most of the West Indies. It is here that the Old World and the New, the light and the dark, the indigenous and the imperial, first converged. So we will divide our grocery list along cultural lines.
    [at the bean shelves] First stop, Africa. Now by the 17th century, West Africans, kidnapped and put to hard labor on sugarcane plantations, had become the majority population in the islands. Fortunately, they brought their wisdom of nutritious beans with them. Now although pigeon peas ruled in the lesser Antilles, and black beans in Cuba and Central America, in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and New Orleans, the red kidney is the once and future bean. Now New Orleans cooks tend to prefer smaller varieties. But I say that if it's red and kidney-shaped, it is welcome in my pot. Ah, canned beans. They may be a temptation, but don't do it. The slow release of starch that comes from cooking dry beans is critical to red bean and rice success.
    [at the rice section] Slavery was abolished in the British West Indies in 1833, leaving the plantations there woefully understaffed. This deficit was filled with indentured servants from China and India, both, of course, rice cultures. Now long-grain rices are the standard for most bean and rice dishes, and I prefer to stick with the locally grown product. Now this is an American basmati that was probably grown either in Texas, Louisiana, or Arkansas. Whatever you do, please avoid parboiled, converted, and boil-in-the-bag rices. Next stop, the European continent.
    [at the produce section] In the sultry Caribbean climate, mirepoix, the ubiquitous chorus of onion, carrot, and celery on which so much French cuisine is constructed, and sofrito, the tomato, garlic, and pepper foundation so critical to Spain's plate, combined to give birth to what is now known as The Trinity: one onion, two green peppers, three stalks of celery. Now most red bean and rice applications also call for two dry herbs from Europe, bay and thyme. And as for the New World, well, we can never forget cayenne pepper, a nod to the fiery foods of Jamaica, mon. Now our final ingredient is lesser known, but 100% New Orleans.
    [in the meat section] In the days before refrigeration, most of the pork that was slaughtered in hot and humid New Orleans, or in that area, was preserved, not by smoking, but by pickling. Now true red beans and rice is indeed seasoned with the tangy goodness of pickled pork. And once you taste it, you'll know why. Now I'll grant you, it's pretty tough stuff to find outside of Louisiana. But luckily, we can make our own with just a little plain old pork butt.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    Getting our pork into a pickle will require a few withdrawals from the old spice cabinet. We require two tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds. Now let's see, a tablespoon of celery seeds, one single bay leaf, one quarter teaspoon of black peppercorns, two tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce, one cup of cider vinegar, let's see, two tablespoons of sugar, one quarter cup of kosher salt and last, but by no means least, six whole garlic cloves, ...

THING: [takes the garlic, peels and crushes it]
AB: Thank you, Thing.

... peeled and crushed.

2 Tbs. Mustard Seed
1 Tbs. Celery Seed
1 Bay Leaf
¼ tsp. Whole Black
2 Tbs. Hot Sauce
1 Cup Cider Vinegar
2 Tbs. Sugar
¼ Cup Kosher Salt
6 Cloves Garlic, Peeled &
    Next up, fetch down your favorite medium saucepan. Dump in everything, along with two cups of nice, clean water. Put the spurs to that, high heat, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and hold a simmer for a mere three minutes. Then kill the heat and add eight ounces, by weight, of ice to cool things down. 2 Cups Water

8 Ounces Ice

    Meanwhile, the meat. We will cube a pound-and-a-half hunk of boneless pork butt. That's shoulder, of course, not, you know. Um, I generally go with two-inch pieces, but absolute uniformity is not required. Now when you've got your pieces done, simply move them into a heavy-duty freezer-style zip-top bag. And when the pickle has cooled, pour it on. And be sure to get all of the bits and pieces out of the bottom of the pot. We need those, too. 1½ Pounds Boneless Pork
    Butt, Cubed

    [at the refrigerator] Now remove as much air from the bag as possible, and then put it in some kind of drip containment unit, and refrigerate for a minimum of three days. And be sure you turn the bag a couple times a day just to keep the pickle properly distributed. Now you can certainly store it in there for up to two weeks. But after that, I would probably take it out, drain it and freeze it, which is a good idea. This way you never, ever run out.

The Kitchen

    Time to contemplate the beans. Although processors do a pretty good job of sorting and cleaning, the occasional bean-sized pebble does get through. A cursory sort is cheap insurance against molar molestation. These are good to go.
    [slowly rising on a platform to his hanging pots] Although the thick, spicy gravy-like blanket of beans that will bathe our rice can be prepared via a wide array of methods, one thing to my mind is non-negotiable, and that is the vessel. The deed must be done in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Seven quarts would be the ideal size, of course. A tight-fitting lid is always a plus.

AB: Down. [and he is slowly lowered]

    Our hero vessel goes over medium-high heat, and we will lube up the interior with two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Now when that begins to shimmer with heat, in go the aromatics. That's one onion, chopped, three stalks of celery, chopped, and two green bell peppers, treated likewise, along with two teaspoons of kosher salt, and about a teaspoon's worth of freshly ground black pepper. Now cook this, stirring frequently, for six to eight minutes, or until the onion and celery become translucent. 2 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
3 Stalks Celery, Chopped
2 Green Bell Peppers,
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Freshly Ground Black

    You know, come to think of it, I really hate that expression, because it suggests that when performed correctly, light should simply pass right through the onions; a phenomenon which I personally have never witnessed. At best, I'd say that the vegetables can turn semi-translucent. Why? Well, come here.

If you don't have time to pickle your pork,
use unsmoked slab bacon cut into chunks.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Bacteria Sock Puppets

    [before AB is a wall of gelatin bricks supported by metal rods running up through the middle of them]  Fruits and vegetables are nice and crunchy because their cell walls are taut and full of liquid. Now the framework of the wall is cellulose, a complex carbohydrate that is not water soluble. That is represented here by the vertical metal members. But the bricks and the glue that holds them together are made from water-soluble pectins and hemicellulose, played stunningly in this case by gelatin.
    Now when cooked, these soften and begin to dissolve. [takes a torch and starts to melt the gelatin in the model] This change manifests itself as a shimmering translucence,. But don't worry, since the framework is hemicellulose, your vegetable will never disappear entirely. Although you might hope that it would, if it happens to be my mother-in-law's vegetables. [he reduces the gelatin to a puddle in the pan] That was fun.

    Uh, okay, the peppers are soft, and the onions and celery are tr ... You know. So we're going to add five cloves of minced garlic and cook for another one to two minutes, stirring constantly. Remember, garlic burns very easily. And when it does, it's never going to be good eats again. 5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
    Now we come to the big build. Twelve ounces of our pickled pork go in, along with three bay leaves, one teaspoon of thyme, dry, one-half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, ground, one teaspoon of hot sauce, and then our one pound of beans. Last, but not least, two quarts of water. And please, if your sink water doesn't taste fantastic, don't doom your dish. Use filtered water instead. Okay, heat all the way up, and cook, stirring every now and then until you reach a boil, which will probably take six to eight minutes, tops. 12 Ounces Pickled Pork
3 Bay Leaves
1 tsp. Dried Thyme
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Hot Sauce
1 Pound Red Kidney Beans
2 Quarts Water

    [later] I'd call that a boil. Now, drop the heat so that you just maintain a strong simmer, and cook for one and a half hours, stopping to stir about every half hour or so. Now you may have noticed, I didn't soak the beans. Truth is, if I was cooking on a wood-burning stove and wanted to conserve some fuel, I'd soak them for six to eight hours to speed the cooking process. But truthfully, a couple of hours worth of cooking gas or electricity aren't that costly, yet. So I'll do all of my rehydrating right here in one fell swoop.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Chuck

AB: [at the kitchen table, showing a model of a bean, AB sits down on a "whoopee cushion"] Ah, thank you, Thing. Subtle segueway!

    Yes, bean consumption can lead to discomfort. As we've discussed in bean shows before, it's a molecular matter. You see, by the time most foods make it down to your intestinal tract, they've been broken down into very little small pieces. And the enzymes that are responsible for dismantling them so that you can then absorb them, make quick work of the job.
    The problem is that beans contain gigantic molecules called oligosaccharides, and your intestines simply don't possess a tool big enough to break them down. So, they float, intact, downstream, into the dark recesses of the colon, where voracious bacteria gleefully feast upon their plenty. Now as these bacteria dine [sock puppets "dine" burping and passing gas as they do so], they give off gas, and plenty of it. So, instead of beating your dog, or blaming Grandma next time your beans make music, blame the bacteria.
    Some folks say that soaking beans before cooking them gets rid of the offending substances. But I have tested and retested and have come to the conclusion that the only way to control your emissions is to train your system by eating more beans. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go open a window. Ugh.
    [back at the stove] All right, time is up. We carefully remove the lid and continue to cook for another 30 to 40 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain this simmer. Now, during this time, of course, the starch that has leeched out of the beans is going to thicken this sauce. Now if you want it even more gravy-like, you could certainly agitate it a little bit.

T: [offers AB a stick blender]
AB: Ah, Thing. You know, ordinarily I, I would go for horsepower. But you know, starch is tricky stuff. [pushes Thing away]

    Too much agitation, and you'll end up with glue instead of gravy.

T: [offers AB a bottle of glue]
AB No, thanks. I've been off the stuff since kindergarten.

    If you do want it a little bit more gravy-like, this [potato masher] will do fine. A hand masher is all the tool you need.
    There. Now, at this juncture we have ourselves a nice, big delicious bowl of fiber, vitamins, minerals, some protein. But mostly we've got a big delicious bowl of [the chair slides to the other end of the table, he looks around a little scared, the camera comes in close, whispering] ... carbohydrates. I hesitate to even say the word because folks tend to freak at its mere utterance as though it were a spell capable of summoning, I don't know, instant Sansabelt slacks. The truth is, just as different proteins and different fats affect the body in different ways, so do different carbohydrates.

    So, what exactly is a carbohydrate? Well, it is one of the basic food molecules, composed primarily of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. Now, there are three essential types. Monosaccharides or single sugars like glucose, blood sugar, disaccharidesdouble sugars, like sucrose, regular table sugarand polysaccharides or complex carbs, which are constructed of at least three sugars, and often many, many more. Now what's important to keep in mind here is that the only carbs your body can absorb are simple carbs. So what really matters here is how the carbs are broken down.


    So my neighbor Chuck is going to help me with a little experiment. You remember my neighbor Chuck.

AB: Say, "Hi, Chuck."
CHUCK: Hi, Chuck.
AB: I, okay. Here. I am going to dig into this big old bowl of beans while Chuck tucks in to the big bowl of sugar. Bon appétit.

[they begin eating]

Archeological evidence indicates that beans were
first domesticated as far back as 7000 B.C.

The Kitchen

AB: Mmm.
  C: Mmm.
AB: Ahh.
  C: Ahh.
AB: How was your sugar?
  C: Delish. [begins shaking]
AB: My beans were equally fantastic. Now let us take a moment to see what is going on inside of Chuck right now via X-rays. I like X-rays. [wheels in an X-ray machine, much to Chuck's dismay] Stay very, very, very still. [buzzing and whirring noises are heard, which sound suspiciously like those of the old "Pac-Man" video game]
  C: Is this thing safe, Mr. Brown? Because I heard high doses of X-rays can be pretty harmful.
AB: Oh, I shouldn't worry too much, Chuck. I got a plan off of the internet and built it myself. It's perfectly safe, I think.

    Now before Chuck can utilize all that energy, his pancreas has to secrete insulin, a hormone that essentially, well, grants his various cells chemical permission to take in glucose.

  C: Mr. Brown, ...
AB: Don't interrupt.

    Now since his system is sensing a huge intake of sugar, his pancreas is cranking out a mega dose of the stuff ...

  C: Did you smell something?

... and that can be a problem. Because once the sugar is dealt with, there will still be a surplus of insulin in his blood, and it's going to need something to do. So his brain is going to tell him to feed the insulin more sugar.

  C: Mr. Brown!

    That is why a couple of hours after eating a meal that's high in simple sugars, that is, one that is high on the glycemic scale ...

  C: Do you have a candy bar around here?
AB: No.
  C: Cookies?
AB: Nope.
  C: Chocolate?
AB: Nope.
  C: Donuts?
AB: No.
  C: Cake?
AB: Nope.
  C: Pie?
AB: Nope.
  C: Soda pop?
AB: Nope.
  C: Jellybeans? Yogurt pretzels? Sugary cereal? Caramel corn? Anything?
AB: Not even a wafer-thin mint.

    As you can imagine, this could become a vicious cycle, which could lead to serious health problems.

AB: Alright, Chuck. Thanks very much. You can head on home. Ahh, there we go. [pulls the machine away to reveal that it has ruined Chuck's shirt] Oh, um ... I guess an adjustment is necessary. Just send me the cleaning bill and the doctor bill, too. Huh huh. Bye, Chuck.

    Okay, I'll make an adjustment here. [turns the machine on himself] Since the sugar that I consumed was in the form of complex carbohydrates, it breaks down very slowly in my system. Thus, my pancreas is cued to excrete insulin at an even, normal rate. This means that my blood sugar does not spike, ergo, I do not go on a foaming-at-the-mouth-like-Cujo candy rampage three hours later. Although, it is clear from this image that candy and I are not exactly strangers. Oh, the rice, excuse me.


    [at the pantry] Most bean and rice applications, be they from the Caribbean, Central, or even South America, generally call for long-grain rices instead of short or medium. Now my personal favorites are crosses between American long-grain varieties and aromatic basmatis. And I prefer the ones grown in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Although, South Carolina rices are pretty good, too.
    Since we're running a wee bit short on time, we shall implement my patented speed rice method, guaranteed to produce fluffy, flavorful rice in 20 minutes flat.

    First step, bring three cups of water to a rolling boil. Since time is of the essence, we will employ an electric kettle for this step. Next, fetch down your favorite medium saucepan and place over high heat. And go ahead and toss in one and a half tablespoons of unsalted butter. Now just gently jiggle and wiggle until the bubbling ceases and the butter starts to brown. 3 Cups Water
1½ Tbs. Unsalted Butter
    Now time to invite the rice to the party; two cups, along with half to one teaspoon of salt, and stir. Now if this reminds you of a risotto procedure, that's because it is. You see, by sautéing the rice, we brown it, thus increasing the natural nutty flavors that linger within each little kernel. We also do some damage, starch damage, that is, which will allow water to move into the rice a little more quickly than would be possible through less extreme procedures. So just keep stirring this until the water comes to a boil or until the rice starts to turn a nice tan. 2 Cups Long-Grain Rice
½-1 tsp. Kosher Salt

The United States grows about 1% of the world's rice.

The Kitchen

    Now our water is boiling and the rice has taken on a nice, nutty tone. Now, time to bring the two together. Now keep in mind that although the water is boiling, the rice is even hotter. And bringing the two together is going to be kind of violent, so you may wish to don some thermal protection, if you get my drift.
    Okay, now dump in the water as fast as you can, smack on the lid, drop the heat to a simmer, and set your timer. Now here in Atlanta, I find that 17 minutes is actually perfect. But given your specific altitude, the barometer setting for the day, the pH of the water, and the exact make and model of the rice, could be a little different by a minute or two, but I'd start with 17.

In 1926, a plate of red beans and rice in
New Orleans would set you back about 26¢.

    [17 minutes later] Now, our rice can go straight to the bowl. At this point it'll be just a little bit sticky, which I happen to like. But if dry and fluffy is the order of the day, then let your rice sit off of the heat for another five minutes before serving. That will allow time for the starches in the rice to stabilize a bit. Now, the beans. Now, you know, by placing beans and rice together in the same meal, we produce a complete protein. That is, a meal that provides all of the essential amino acids required to build the various replacement parts that our bodies need to keep going. Which no doubt explains to some extent, at least, the nutritional popularity of this dish and its many international avatars. Oh, by the way, remember to remove the bay leaves. They're not good eats.
    At this point, you could certainly add a finishing flourish. Chopped parsley perhaps, or white or green onion. In New Orleans, it is certainly not unusual to see some smoky sausage fried up and placed right on top, grease and all. Hah hah hah hah.
    [AB tastes] Mmm! Mmm. You know, if America is indeed a melting pot, and I certainly like to think of it that way, then red beans and rice may be the finest testament we have to that polycultural condition. It is nutritious. It is healthy, economical, and if I don't mind saying so myself, it's happy. No wonder jazz great Louis Armstrong himself used to sign his autograph "Red Beans and Ricely Yours." See you next time on Good Eats, America.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 05/01/2011