I’m always skeptical of anything that is called “The Best, The Greatest or World Famous”. It’s just my nature.
This past Tuesday just happened to be Fat Tuesday. It’s the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the official end of the Mardi Gras season. If you’re going to cook or eat any type of creole or Cajun style food, this was a pretty good day to do it.
It’s a day when people who normally don’t partake in this particular type of regional cuisine enjoy a bowl of gumbo or a sweet and salty corn bread muffin. Think corned beef and cabbage here (oh, and green beer). It’s the same “everybody’s Irish for a day” concept.
From 1944 to 1994 in the famous New Orleans French Quarter, a man named Buster Holmes was cooking up some amazing classic Creole food. Legend has it, people would travel a pretty long way to get some of Buster’s cooking. One particular dish of his was so notable that it earned him the nickname, “King of Red Beans and Rice”.
KING!! That’s impressive. Considering, there has to be a thousand places in a 10 miles radius of the French Quarter that have red beans and rice on their menu. At least a thousand. That may even be an understatement. If any food claim warranted a more thorough investigation, this was certainly in the running.
As you can see above, Buster has a cookbook. It’s entitled, appropriately enough, The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook. And, I have a copy.
Contained within the pages of this book are fantastic stories of Buster and his French Quarter pals whooping it up and enjoying life, each other and of course food. Also included in Buster’s cookbook is the recipe for his “World Famous” Red Beans and Rice.
You don’t think for one minute that I’m not going to check this out do you? Correct. Let’s do it!
Just looking through Buster’s recipe things seem very straightforward (as do the rest of the recipes in the book). I’m checking out the ingredients and the steps and thinking to myself, “What separates his red beans recipe from all of the others. The non world famous ones?”.
You start off with a pound of dried red beans.
You’ll need about a pound of smoked ham hocks.
And, the usual creole/Cajun cooking vegetables. Garlic, onion and green bell pepper. Add some water and simmer in a pot.
I let my beans cook for the prescribed 2 hours, before preforming the finishing touches (including cooking my rice).
How could these few simple ingredients and steps yield something so good that the creator of this dish would be awarded the noble title, King of Red Beans and Rice?
I was now ready to see if I could answer the question I had been thinking about since I first turned to page 56 and looked at the recipe. It was tasting time!
WOW! OK, now I was really turned around. These red beans were out of this world! They were so creamy tasting, but, the beans weren’t mushy. The flavor was bold enough to stand up to a good dose of Louisiana hot sauce, but, not strong enough where you couldn’t taste the nutty flavor of the rice.
Could these beans really be called “World Famous”? I haven’t tasted all of the potential title holders, but, these are some damn good beans!
Here’s How To Do It
1 lb. red beans
1 lb. smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic (I smashed mine)
1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) margarine
Salt and pepper to taste
Sort through beans and remove any debris (rocks, etc.). Wash the beans and place in a heavy bottomed pot. Add onion, bell pepper, ham hocks and garlic. Add enough water to the pot to cover. Simmer uncovered on a medium low heat for about two hours. You’re going to want to stir this through occasionally. Raise or lower the heat to compensate for the amount of cooking liquid lost. You’ll want to have enough liquid for the beans to have a nice consistency at the end of the cooking time. But, not too much. It’s not a soup.
When the beans are a good texture, add salt, pepper and margarine. Cook 5 minutes more. Serve on rice with Louisiana hot sauce and French bread with butter.
Recipe: Buster Holmes World Famous Red Beans and Rice, Buster Holmes, The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook. Pelican Publishing Company.
The Bottom Line
This is a fascinating collection of regional cuisine, stories and culture. Buster Holmes passed away back in 1994. And, as chance would have it, on a Monday. His book allows you a taste of what it was like to pull up a stool at the counter of his famous French Quarter eatery. Buster can’t do the cooking for you anymore, but, at least you can do it for yourself and others. Long live the KING!
Check out our video on how to makes Buster’s Famous Red Beans and Rice.
Author: Buster Holmes
Publisher: Pelican Publishing
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