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Red beans question...

I was looking at a cookbook the other day and came across a recipe for red beans that called for using kielbasa as an ingredient. I've always used a good smoked sausage or a ham hock in mine and have never even seen them made with anything else. I thought that kielbasa would be kind of non-authentic. But then, I don't live in the area so who am I to judge?

My question is- does anyone in New Orleans ever use kielbasa in their red beans?

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  1. If every grocery in town but one was closed down and the remaining one only had kielbasa, I guess I'd use it then...

    1. I'm a proud kielbasa eater, thanks to my Eastern European heritage, so I'm more flexible than most. Some kielbasa is smoked, and there isn't much difference between it and the generically labeled smoked sausage in the refrigerated case at any grocery. Red beans taste best, though, with the types of sausage traditionally used in the dish--sausage that is usually spicier than kielbasa and that is plentiful in this area.

      Besides, after five years of searching, I would argue that there is no decent kielbasa to be found in New Orleans [except the sandwich at Dat Dog].

      1. Thanks for the answers! I've always thought that the sausage needed to be coarser than kielbasa. Those things seem to have the same consistency as a hot dog. I love hot dogs but don't want 'em in my beans!

        Guess I won't be pushing anyone to nab this cookbook!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Clarkafella

          Kilelbasa is a Polish generic term for sausage. I'm attaching a link to a Polish restaurant with a store next door. I'll summarize for those that don't want to read it, but the commercial stuff sold in the US is junk and bears no resemblance to real Poilish sausage. The type in the article is podwelaska, a meaty sausage, not the soft mushy hot dog stuff. My granparents are from Poland and these folks are 100 percent from the old country. If you're ever in Houston try Polonia restaurant and the store next door, with an amazing variety of sausages and Polish food. It's five minutes off I10 on the westside.

          http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/...

          http://www.poloniarestaurant.com/Menu...

          1. re: James Cristinian

            You are right to refer to most US kielbasa as "junk." I've had the real thing in Eastern Europe and it is good stuff. Russia, which gets a bad knock on food tradition (at least in this country) has all manner of wonderful smoked meats/sausage.

            Ordinary smoked sausage at the Albertson's or Kroger or you-name-it mega store, is not intersting enough for RB&R. Hungry Celeste is, as always, right when she remarks that many people don;t cook the sausage into the concoction: I do both..add some to it (along with a ham hock or some other pork item, and then add andouille/sausage about thirty minutes before the finish.

        2. Hillshire Farms and Oscar Mayer both make a smoked sausage that's widely available outside Louisiana. It'll do just fine in a pinch.

          1. Polish Sausage aka Kielbasa really isn't that different than your regular grocery store smoked sausage (like Hillshire Farms). It's greasier and not as spicy as local sausage, but it'll do if you up the spices in the rest of the dish. We used it frequently in gumbo and jambalaya when we moved to the Midwest and it was fine....renders well to sautee the veggies in for sure!

            1 Reply
            1. re: jes7o

              Actually, I'll politely disagree. Comparing grocery store Kielbasa to the real Polish stuff (see my post above,) is like comparing Louisiana crawfish to California crawfish, or horror of horrors, Chinese.

            2. Just a little tip on the red beans, put a little liquid crab boil in them. Be careful, it's potent.

              1. Kielbasa (especially the American supermarket variety) isn't a very good substitute in beans and rice, but will get you through as a last resort.
                However, most supermarkets these days seem to carry AIDELL's brand sausages...and their andouille is decent enough and would fit in very nicely. Certainly better than anything Hillshire offers!

                1 Reply
                1. re: The Professor

                  The kielbasa I see in stores in areas without a large Polish population is the smoked variety. There's also a fresh variety, which we used to get at the Broadway Market in Buffalo - I've never seen it in a "regular" grocery. That said, if I were making dinner, and all I had in the house were red beans, smoked kielbasa, rice, and the makings of the Trinity I'd use them. But then I'm not from New Orleans. In my last batch I used andouille, since I had it on hand. Pickled pork is the "authentic" thing to use, but it's not something I can find here and I don't feel like making up a big batch (and it's something you don't do a small batch of).

                  Basically, legume and grain dishes are peasant "use what you have" food. If it tastes good, go for it. If it doesn't, use something else next time.

                2. This particular recipe listed kielbasa as one of the ingredients. I could see maybe using it if nothing else was available, but reaching past some good smoked sausage (I like "Country Pleasing") to grab the kielbasa seemed... I don't know, insane maybe?

                  1. Plenty of people, esp in NOLA, never use sausage IN their beans. Salted pork or pickled pork (aka "pickle meat"), more specifically pickled rib tips (aka "pickle tips") are frequently used to flavor the beans as they cook, with sausage (cooked separately) served alongside the beans once they're done.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                      Actually, I don't usually add any until the beans are cooked, but I do use a ham hock or some other part of pig.

                      On another note, have you been gone lately? I haven't seen many of your posts lately and have been missing them! Maybe I just haven't been on here as much...

                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                        In addition to salt pork, I throw in a ham hock and a hot chilie or two for some extra flavor. After pan grilling the smoked sausage, I slice it and add just prior to serving.

                      2. This is just my guess but I always thought that kielbasa was substituted in cookbooks becuase it might be found more readily in, say, Cleveland. I've got cookbooks dating to the 1950's/60's calling for it in Louisiana recipes. I think Richard Collin fell in line with that "tradition" in his large cookbook. Also, of course, cookbooks often provide addresses for suppliers. My copies of "The Gentleman's Companion" list such places as the now-gone Solcari's, which would give you change in stamps, as chandlers of local goodies.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: hazelhurst

                          In my 1975 copy of Richard Collin's New Orleans Cookbook, he calls for baked ham, pickled pork, and a sawed up whole ham bone. No sausage. This version tastes like what i grew up with, though, I must admit, out here in Northern California, I have to approximate the ingredients, sometimes using pig's feet, pork chop, salt pork, etc. I do remember that at Buster Holme's on Burgundy in the 60's, hot sausage was extra and on the side. If I remember correctly, red beans and rice with french bread were $.35. With hot sausage it went up to a big $.75!

                          1. re: gumbolox

                            I thought I remembered Collin referring to other sausages in his more broadly published stuff. I know I have seen kielbasa mentioned as a substitute for what is sometimes called "cajun sausage" whatever that is. (Andouille?) I used to cook with some friends at MArdi Gras up on Camp Street and we loved to laugh at some of Richard's stances.

                            RB&R with a fried pork chop is also a classic way. You are right...the prices used to reflect it with sausage as a different charge. The ones I see at Carnival parites are probably split down the middle...lots of them cook the sausage into it...some do that AND have sliced pieces on teh table. As you will....

                            1. re: gumbolox

                              I remember Buster Holmes as well- I seem to recall that you could get a piece of fried chicken on the side for a few cents more than the sausage. Seems like the chicken was just about as popular!

                              1. re: Clarkafella

                                Yep, you're right. Soulful greasy somewhat spicy fried chicken.

                          2. As many people have noted, it's doubtful New Orleanians would use kielbasa--in or alongside their red beans. But It is often offered as "substitute" (usually, I think, for andouille) in cookbooks meant to appeal to a broader audience. Paul Prudhomme suggests it as a substitute in the recipes in his first cookbook, IIRC--don't have it in front of me.

                            I have tried kielbasa a few times while making gumbo in the midwest--and always found what I could find in the stores to be a poor substitute; never seemed anything like andouille. (Good kielbasa can be found in Chicago, and while it still didn't seem all that similar to andouille, I could see serving it with RB&R.)

                            1. My wife always does a good smoked sausage, that is initially crisped in a cast-iron skillet.

                              She uses a combo of Camellia dry red beans, and then two cans of Blue Runner red beans. She is light on the bell peppers, and on the onions, but her red beans are "to die for."

                              Hunt

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                I will only use Camellia beans. Just curious, why the combo?

                                1. re: JazzyB

                                  I know lots of people who add Blue Runner (and ONLY Blue Runner). I've done it to stretch things. One friend says she likes the consistency that Blue Runner gives the finished products. Cook it awhile and they will break down faster that the others, giving her the soupy quality she likes without waiting. Good Mardi Gras trick. Another friend does the same but her trick is to add sage..people love it but cannot figure it out.

                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                    I learned that trick on here. I like what the Blue Runner canned beans do!

                                  2. re: JazzyB

                                    It has been my wife's recipe for decades, and she does such a good job, that I would never ask her to deviate from it.

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      I was not implying that she should change her recipe, rather what I might learn or incorporate. Also, at what point in the cooking are they added?

                                      1. re: JazzyB

                                        She likes the two styles of beans for their flavors and their textures. Combined, I find them heavenly, though some might take issue, and cite "purity" of recipe. In my case, it is about the taste, the texture and every aspect of the dish.

                                        Same for her choice of sausage, and their prep. Some might cite her for not being "true" to her New Orleans roots, but when served, it's all about the dish, and I will let the food historians sort it out with a bunch of footnotes to each other.

                                        It's sort of the same thing with Mexican food. As Mexico is a very large and diverse country, what one writer might find as authentic, another might find a problem. It just depends on "authentic to what?"

                                        For me, it's about enjoyment, and her red beans and rice are at the top of the list. While I have eaten them all around the Deep South (and around NOLA), I cannot think of any version, that is better, to my palate.

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Thanks Hunt.
                                          I am not a believer in "authentic". Most times my riffs yield tastier results. I also pan grill the smoked sausage. Cooking with the beans renders it tastless. Same with the hot Italian sausage I use to flavor my red gravy. Once the sauce is done, the sausage is tossed. It's done it's job. It's all about the end result. I am however, a stickler for presentation. Artfully arranged and garnished. Desserts all look like they came from The Cake Bible. Having a background in art, it's second nature.

                                          1. re: JazzyB

                                            Like you, I am more concerned with the tastes.

                                            My wife does great seafood gumbo, but some years back, she lost her confidence and began talking to family members. They came up with all kinds of "stuff." She tried to use all of their input, and the results were far less, than her normal seafood gumbo. We spoke of this, and I finally convinced her that she had the "magic," all along, and by listening to others in her family, had greatly compromised the dish.

                                            Fortunately, she has not lost that same confidence with red beans and rice, and I hope that she never does. While her family tried, they just do not have the "touch." In the end, it is about the flavors, the textures, and how the final dish performs. I do not care about any "family recipe," or similar. It boils down to the flavors.

                                            Hunt

                                2. When I lived in NOLA, a friend from upper New York state happily substituted Kielbasa for Andouille. So, it has been done.

                                  I'm just lucky that I have a source for Camellia beans and good Andouille nearby in Knoxville at The Shrimp Shack. Because there are times when the real thing is a necessity, at least my version of it.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: shallots

                                    What is a good brand of Andouille to use, please.

                                    1. re: shallots

                                      I substitute Hillshire Farm Hot Links.

                                      1. re: wyogal

                                        I am not a fan of Hillshire Farm sausage products. They are so fatty and greasy to my way of thinking.

                                        1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                          Different strokes for different folks.

                                          1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                            I have to agree. The fattiness doesn't bother me (after all, lean sausage is a total fail) ...but it's the texture of the Hillshire tubed meats that just seems all wrong to me and they just seem far saltier than they need to be. OK in a pinch I suppose, but there are better sausages available in supermarkets nowadays..

                                            But yes...different strokes. Use whatever your tastebuds like. :-)

                                            1. re: The Professor

                                              There should be enough fat in the sausage, that one will not need to add anything, to toast the slices in a cast iron skillet. If there is not enough fat, then the wrong sausage was chosen - IMHO.

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: The Professor

                                                Yes, there are lots of sausages out there, but most others are twice the price as well.

                                                1. re: wyogal

                                                  No argument there.
                                                  I can understand being frugal and watching the $$$...but occasionally for some things isn't the better quality and flavor worth a few extra bucks?

                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                    You know, I was thinking that when it comes to red beans, it is the opposite that is true. Cheap sausage probably has parts in it that I don't really want to know about, but that is what makes it taste good! I'm pretty sure that the best beans I've ever had used things like Red Rose Hot Links (the kind with the red dye) rather than the good stuff...

                                                    1. re: The Professor

                                                      Unless I were to drive 2 hours north of here, to a fabulous smoke house for their sausages, I don't find that the expensive, mass produced, packaged stuff hanging on the same rack is really that much better for the price. Really. If I want sausage in beans or a paella, I will use Hot Links. I won't use overpriced stuff when it is in combination with other stuff, and especially for comfort food that is based on a "poor man's" diet. Usually, the biggest difference is that the high priced stuff has a picture of a chef on the package.

                                          2. If you were going for authentic, you should use pickled pork. Do a search for "alton brown red beans and rice" on either google or youtube. Good eats episode covered red beans and rice well.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Swamibob

                                              What is "authentic?"

                                              How does Alton Brown figure in? Is he from New Orleans, or has he just gathered bits and pieces of others' recipes?

                                              Not sure why one would go with something from elsewhere, but maybe it's quite good?

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                "How does Alton Brown figure in? Is he from New Orleans, or has he just gathered bits and pieces of others' recipes?"

                                                First off, just because someone is from New Orleans it does not automatically make then an authority on how red beans and rice should be or were made.

                                                Alton Brown had a little show on the food network called good eats and about all he did on this show is research origins of different foods and preparation techniques. He should be considered an expert in the field if anyone is.
                                                Pickled pork is what they used in the past when the original recipe was developed. Like someone else in this thread also said after i said pickled pork, it would have been salted meat or pickled pork since they didn't have refrigeration. Do a search and watch the episode, then you will know how he came up with it. Then you can decide if you agree or not. Here i did the work for you. http://youtu.be/vQ5pZoIbFu4?t=3m22s

                                            2. If I lived in NOLA I'd use andouille and andouille only. However I live in Toronto and as such, unless I want to make my own (which I have with limited success) I'm stuck trying to find a decent substitute. I've found that the kolbassa from the butcher my family has been going to for decades fortified with a bit of Cajun seasoning works really well.

                                              If you want to be "Authentic" about it you should be using a ham bone anyway.

                                              DT

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                I use 2 ham hocks, salt pork and some seasoning ham, 2t. baking soda (reduces aftermath of beans). Pan grilled side of sausage. Sausage/andouille. and tasso freeze well. Order a large supply online and freeze to reduce repeat shipping.charges. BTW, Camellia red beans are a must. All beans are not created equal.

                                                http://kpauls.com/meats
                                                http://poches-market.myshopify.com/

                                                1. re: JazzyB

                                                  I use one ham hock although the ones we get up here are probably double what I generally see in the US.
                                                  I also use about a pound and a half of sausage diced.

                                                  I'll have to remember the baking soda tip. It really works??

                                                  DT

                                                  1. re: JazzyB

                                                    For a long time Camellia red beans were hard to find here in North Florida, I had to rely on my friends to bring them over when they visited or have the beans shipped. Eventually, I came accross the China Doll brand of beans. I believe they come from somewhere in Alabama. I still prefer Camellia but so not hesitate to use China Doll if I cannot acquire Camellia. They consistantly cook up nice and creamy with pretty much that same flavor.

                                                2. The traditional meat for New Orleans Red Beans was Salt Meat or Pickled Pork, Sausage was sometimes served as a "side".

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: mudcat

                                                    Now, that depends on the family, and their recipes.

                                                    Dishes, like Red Beans & Rice, can be very localized. Sort of like saying Mole ONLY uses ____, when it depends on the state in Mexico, and even the family involved.

                                                    It gets down to "authentic" to what?

                                                    Hunt