Use Good Kielbasa In Red Beans And Rice If You Can't Find Andouille

On any given Monday, stroll into a New Orleans bar, and you're likely to find a cheap or even free pot of red rice and beans simmering therein. The tradition is centuries old and started as a thrifty, low-maintenance meal that could simmer all day while foodies came and went. Today, steaming pots of red beans and rice stand ready to be scooped into waiting Styrofoam bowls and enjoyed city-wide. Some Nola barflies even embark on "red bean crawls" in which they sample the dishes from all of the local bars. For the rest of us, foodies outside of the French Quarter can still whip up our own pots of this protein-packed comfort food at home — and if you can't find andouille sausage, kielbasa makes a fitting understudy.

Classic New Orleans-style red beans and rice combines sturdy, hearty ingredients on a fluffy rice bed, but the star of the dish is really the sausage. If you've never worked with it before, andouille is a strongly flavored pork sausage with a sharp, smoky, spicy taste. It's a popular ingredient in many Cajun-style dishes from jambalaya to hush puppies. Andouille is stocked in many grocery stores and butcher shops, but if the sharp sausage is nowhere to be found in your local market, kielbasa is available at all kinds of retailers from Polish delis to Whole Foods. Thanks to its identical cooking needs, kielbasa makes a quick and easy stand-in with a few flavor tweaks.

What constitutes good kielbasa?

Kielbasa is a Polish smoked pork sausage flavored with spices like garlic, juniper, and marjoram before being smoked and dried, and Ina Garten swears by it. It totes a subtler flavor compared to andouille (think of kielbasa as the mid-point between chorizo and bratwurst), and thanks to its arched shape and thickness, it can also be sliced into coins in the same way as andouille. The key here is quality. Kielbasa shrinks as it cooks, losing weight and mass. An overly fatty sausage won't cut it for your red beans and rice, so to ensure you're purchasing a high-quality sausage, check out the packaging. If 100 grams of meat or more were used to make 100 grams of kielbasa, then it's good enough to work for your recipe.

For best results, whip up your batch of red beans and rice the day before you plan to eat it so that all of the flavors have a chance to meld. Depending on your preferences, the more understated profile of kielbasa could be a beneficial swap. The dish can turn out creamy, spicy, savory, smoky, or slightly sweet depending on the type of spices and veggies you use. If kielbasa doesn't deliver on the spiciness you crave, feel free to add a little extra heat with a dash of hot sauce or sriracha. For true New Orleans flair, complete the meal with a Sazerac and a Fats Domino record.