cajun seasoned whitefish with red beans and rice

Cajun seasoned whitefish, curried root vegetables, red beans and rice
Whitefish with cajun seasoning, curried root vegetables, red beans and rice
Whitefish with cajun seasoning, curried root vegetables, red beans and rice

Many cultures of the Caribbean have their own version of  what we call rice and peas in Jamaica. It is basically rice and kidney beans cooked in coconut milk  and salted pig’s tail. This version called red beans and rice,  is from the Southern US, most likely Louisiana, via Emeril Lagasse. Instead of cooking the rice with the kidney beans, meat,  and other seasonings, the rice is cooked separately. Red beans and rice is quite easy to make but time-consuming, taking up to 2 hours to make. I halved the recipe and made some adaptations

Red Beans and Rice

Prep time: 5 hours 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Servings: 4

1cup dried red beans, rinsed and picked over
1  tablespoon rice bran oil (bacon grease in the original recipe)
2 1/4 cups chopped ham, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/3 cup chopped Chinese celery (celery in the original recipe)
1/3 cup chopped spur chilies (green bell peppers in the original recipe)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
1  large bay leave
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 teaspoons dried thyme  (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1/2 cup smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
5 cups chicken stock, or water (I used 3 chicken bouillon cubes)
2 cups cooked long grain brown rice (long grain white rice in the original)
1/4 cup green onions, sliced on the bias,  optional

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and
set aside. Meanwhile make the rice in a rice cooker and leave it on the keep warm feature until ready to serve.

Cook’s Note: I soaked the beans for 5 hours on the counter top. Then I cooked them in the pressure cooker for 8 minutes. Drain the beans and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup of the ham and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the
onions, celery and peppers to the pot. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes.

Add the bay leaf, cilantro, thyme, sausage, and the remainder of the ham, then cook, stirring, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and stock or water, stir well, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the liquid starts to thicken, about 2 hours. (If  the beans become too thick and dry, add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time.)

Cook’s Note: I checked the beans every 30 minutes to make sure they weren’t drying out. At first I had the heat turned to medium low, but that was too low to cook and thicken the gravy. The liquid in the pot should bubble gently, so adjust the heat accordingly. In the last half hour of cooking, prep the fish and fry it. See instructions below.

I served the red beans and rice with whitefish seasoned with Cajun seasoning. Pat two whitefish fillets dry with paper towels, then liberally sprinkle each side with Cajun seasoning. Heat  1 tablespoon oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the fillets. Cook on one side 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and cook on the second side 3-4 more minutes. You’ll know the fillets are done when the meat flakes easily when gently prodded with a fork. Before serving, sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper, if desired.

Remove the pot of beans from the heat and with the back of a wooden spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot.

Cook’s Note: Alternatively, remove about a cupful of beans and ham and simply mash the beans in a bowl  with a fork then return the smashed beans and ham to the pot.

Continue to cook until the beans are fork tender but look firm, and the liquid in the pot has turned reddish brown and thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.