I'm a Southerner, and this slow cooker red beans and rice recipe for Juneteenth reminds me of home

·6 min read
Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Chef Chris Williams shared his recipe for slow cooker red beans and rice last June with Consumer Reports.Lauren Edmonds/Insider
  • African Americans and others will celebrate Juneteenth annually on June 19. 

  • I made Chef Chris Williams' recipe for slow cooker red rice and beans.

  • The slow cooker made the red beans creamy and the added turkey leg boosted the flavors. 

Insider's food reporter was born and raised in Florida and grew up eating Southern food.

Chris Williams Red Beans and Rice Recipe
Insider reporter Lauren Edmonds grew up in Orlando, Florida.Lauren Edmonds/Insider

Although there's debates about whether Florida is technically a "southern" state, I've always considered it a part of the South and myself a Southerner. I grew up in Orlando, Florida, a metropolitan where regional eats and local seafood were always available.

From smoked ribs to crab legs, the South has a rich culinary culture that's celebrated during holidays like Juneteenth.

The color red plays a significant role in Juneteenth celebrations.

People watch a parade taking place to celebrate Juneteenth 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.
People watch a 2021 Juneteenth parade in Atlanta, Georgia.Megan Varner/Getty Images

Food historian and cookbook author Adrian Miller explained that red holds important symbolism for Juneteenth, which first took place on June 19, 1865. There are few theories on why red is important because the information wasn't always documented, Miller told Insider.

"The one I hear frequently is that red symbolizes the blood shed by enslaved West African ancestors," he said. "So, red pays homage and respect to those ancestors who died during the Atlantic slave trade."

As a result, the color red traditionally appears throughout Juneteenth weekend in everything from flags and apparel to food.

Ahead of the celebrations, I made Chef Chris Williams of Lucille's recipe for slow cooker red beans and rice that he shared with Consumer Reports in June 2021. Lucille's is a Houston-based restaurant focused on Southern cuisine founded by Williams, who attended Le Cordon Blue in Texas, the website said.

It's a hands-off recipe that creates a creamy texture with the red beans and gets a flavor boost from the added turkey leg.

This recipe calls for 11 ingredients, including a jalapeño pepper and a turkey neck.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Soak the red beans overnight before starting the recipe.Lauren Edmonds/Insider

Most of the ingredients in Williams' recipe are likely in your kitchen, but you'll need:

  • 1 lb. dried red beans, soaked overnight

  • 1 lb. chicken sausage, sliced into rounds

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped

  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped

  • 1 sweet onion, chopped

  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (or to taste)

  • 1 smoked turkey neck

  • 10 cups water

  • 4 cups of cooked rice

Add the red beans into the slow cooker with water.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Put the beans in the slow cooker with water.Lauren Edmonds/Insider

Williams' recipe called for 10 cups of water, but I found that the end result was too watery for my taste. Personally, I like the sauce for my red beans and rice to be a little thick.

Instead, I used six cups of water the second time around and found that it left behind a more viscous sauce.

Prep the meat, onion, and bell pepper that will go in the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Slice the meat (left), chop the onion (middle), and chop the green bell pepper (right).Lauren Edmonds/Insider

Slice the chicken sausage into rounds, and chop one sweet onion and one green bell pepper. Then, set aside the ingredients in separate containers until transitioning to the stove.

 

Prep the jalapeño pepper and garlic cloves, too.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Chop the jalapeńo pepper (left) and the garlic cloves (right).Lauren Edmonds/Insider

Chop the jalapeño pepper — making sure to remove the seeds — and chop eight garlic cloves.

Cook the chicken sausage in a skillet and add it to the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Transfer the browned chicken sausage from the skillet (left) to a slow cooker (right).Lauren Edmonds/Insider

Williams said to brown the sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat, then remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and add it to the slow cooker. He said to "reserve" the leftover "drippings" in the skillet.

I added two tablespoons of neutral oil to the skillet to help the sausage along.

Next, take all the chopped ingredients and add them to the skillet.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Add the onion, green bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic to the skillet, then transfer to the slow cooker.Lauren Edmonds/Insider

Add the onion, green bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic to the leftover drippings, then cook and stir until tender. Williams' suggested cook time was five minutes.

Once cooked, add the chopped ingredients to the slow cooker.

The final additions include seasonings and a turkey neck. Then let the slow cooker do its thing!

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Let the slow cooker sit for around eight hours on low heat.Lauren Edmonds/Insider

Lastly, add 1 tsp of ground black pepper, 1 tsp of Creole seasoning, and the turkey neck.

As Williams' told Consumer Report, this is a "set-it-and-forget-it" meal, so cover the slow cooker with the top and let it cook on low for around eight hours (or when the beans are tender).

I checked on my slow cooker meal every two hours to see how it progressed.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
The slow cooker at two hours (left), four hours (middle), and six hours (right).Lauren Edmonds/Insider

At the two-hour mark, good smells began wafting through my apartment and the beans were beginning to cook through.

At the four-hour mark, the chicken sausage took on a darker color and was nearly cooked. The beans were beginning to soften but weren't at a creamy consistency yet. I also added another tbsp of Creole seasoning, which infused another layer of flavor and color.

After six hours, the dish smelled and looked delicious! The turkey leg had cooked through and was tender, while the sausages soaked up the seasoning in the slow cooker.

After eight hours, the red beans were creamy and I added them to a bed of white rice.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Chef Chris Williams shared his recipe for slow cooker red beans and rice last June.Lauren Edmonds/Insider

One of my favorite aspects of Williams' recipe is the assortment of flavors that intermingle together. The meats, seasoning, and added ingredients like onion resulted in a punch of flavor that I'd expect to find at a southern restaurant. I cut slices from the turkey neck and added them to my plate for a boost of flavor.

Another aspect is the beans, which adopted a creamy — but not mushy — texture while in the slow cooker. If you're someone who likes a hearty meal but doesn't have the time to make it, slow cooker recipes like this one are stellar options.

Red beans and rice is a delicious way to include the color red in a Juneteenth meal, and the slow cooker method makes the task easier than ever.

Read the original article on Insider