“Cajun red beans have always been my favorite, so that’s what I’m cooking today. It has the hot sausage balls in it; it’s my mom’s secret. You have to cut the hot sausage links open, take out the filling, and roll the meat into small balls, and you wait until your beans are creamy, and that’s when you throw the hot sausage balls in—to add that spice. You don’t have to use Zatarain’s, or hot sauce. You still get that hotness that you’re looking for. A lady told me that the definition of Cajun beans is that it has andouille sausage in it, which is a sausage made in southern Louisiana. But the smoked sausage, the Double D, was made in the Lower Ninth Ward, so we’d take that over the andouille because that’s our neighborhood meat. So we made it Ninth Ward Cajun.
My mother was from Franklinton, Louisiana. She would cook things like duck, rabbit, and deer. But then for me, she’d cook baked chicken, or pork and beans and wieners. I’m a big fan of that. It’s quick and fast and easy. And she made the best gumbo ever. I’ll tell you my mother’s gumbo secret: when she started the roux, in the beginning, and added the water, she’d take some boiled crabs and add that in for the flavor, and then take those out and put in the raw crabs to grab everything. I try to use that in my cooking—don’t follow the recipe, but to follow what I’m after.
I grew up over by Kentucky and Rampart. You wouldn’t go over the bridge; you’d go on the side and turn right. In the morning, the train would pass and you’d hear the soldiers at the Navy support center right there on Poland, doing their morning runs and jogs and singing their songs, and my mom would be cooking breakfast. I come from a family of six—I’m the baby—and we had nieces and nephews and neighbors over, doing a lot of eating and cooking. That’s why I’m shocked that I’m not a cook, but a dancer.
Being born in Franklinton, my mom would always say, ‘I’m a country girl.’ She would cook everything from scratch, that’s what she said. But in , when we say ‘cook from scratch,’ what we mean is ‘what am I going to cook today?’ [scratching head]. That’s cooking from scratch. My mother was taught by her mother; and my grandmother was of the Choctaw nation. My mother was real good with growing her own spices and seasonings. I grew up doing a lot of farm work. I’m a city boy, but she would have us picking tomatoes, picking mandarins, and she would grow the cabbage, the lettuce, the okra—I didn’t have to pick the okra because it made my hand balloon and turn into a big ball—so I picked mandarins and tangerines. And we’d have misbelief trees. Japanese plums, we call them misbeliefs, because we just can’t believe they grow right here! In the Ninth Ward, we had the gardens. Even in St. Bernard Parish, where my father was from, the land off of the railroad tracks, we’d go till the land, and that’s where I first learned to drive, out in the field. My dad said I couldn’t drive his car in the street, so I drove it in the dirt. We even grew corn. My mother had a green thumb. She’d say she could grow anything but money. It just won’t grow in for some reason.
These beans, I cook them exactly like my mother would have done them. The water I soak my beans in is the water that goes on the fire. To me, it’s because they’ve grown a friendship. They trust one another. The water didn’t leave the pot, and the beans didn’t jump out. When the beans get soft, my mother didn’t smash the beans; she’d add a little butter and take the spoon and turn it, and that’s what makes them creamy. Otherwise, you lose the beans. I’m a guy who likes texture. I don’t want no soupy beans. I want to know that I’m actually eating beans.
I also re-add seasonings when the excess water cooks off and it’s getting into that tight gravy. That’s when you lock it. In the beginning, to get the beans started, I put seasonings in the water, and then later, I hit it a little more. Then I do a dance in between. My mom would put the beans on a low fire and look at The Young and the Restless, The Guiding Light, As the World Turns. You can’t rush your beans; beans are not cooked in one hour. She said three hours to cook your beans. And when my beans come to creaminess, I add some more beans.”
Red Beans with Hot Sausage Balls
1 lb red kidney beans
1 large onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 lb Double D hot smoked sausage, cut into slices and then in halves
1 lb fresh hot sausage from Rouses, remove cases and roll into 1-inch balls
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
Rinse beans and soak overnight in water in a pot, covering beans with at least 2 inches of water. In the morning, remove about 1 cup of beans from the pot and set aside; chop and mix onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic together, adding about half of this mix to beans in the pot. Add bay leaves, and simmer, covered, for 1 hour until the beans begin to soften. Add reserved beans, the rest of the onion mix, along with the sliced smoked sausage. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until the beans that were added last are soft enough to eat. Stir in butter and drop in the hot sausage balls. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste and serve over rice.
You can add cayenne too, but Dancing Man 504 usually doesn’t.