How Do You Red Bean, Susan Ford?
In late 2011, Susan Ford had a big choice to make – either move back to the West Coast or launch a magazine in New Orleans. Luckily she chose to stay in the Crescent City. She used her 20 years of publishing experience and launched Our Kitchen and Culture, LLC and began publishing Louisiana Kitchen and Culture Magazine in 2012.
Louisiana Kitchen and Culture offers a unique view of the culinary culture and heritage of all of Louisiana. Susan said, “Chefs do a lot of writing for the magazine. Subscribers want to read about what inspires them in the kitchen, how they came to be a professional chef, all in their own voice rather than via a generic interview.”
Growing up 100 miles east of New Orleans, Susan knows great Southern cooking and how important the food is to everyone there. “Food is ingrained into our culture down here. We sit down to eat and, while critiquing what’s on our plate, we talk about what we had for dinner the previous night and what we’re going to eat for our next meal.”
She has a love for the culinary scene of New Orleans and Louisiana and it shows in her work with the magazine and in being an outspoken ambassador encouraging people from all over the country to visit Louisiana. She knows that even when you visit, a piece of you stays and a piece of Louisiana goes with you! With Louisiana Kitchen & Culture Magazine you can continue to have the culture and heritage of this unique place sent right to your doorstep with excellent stories, wonderful recipes and great cooking tips no matter where you’re at. If you love Creole and Cajun cooking, you’ll love this magazine!
I asked Susan, “How Do You Red Bean?”
1. Where’s your favorite place to order red beans and rice in New Orleans?
Coop’s on Decatur in the French Quarter. It’s a dive bar you’d never think to go into just passing by, but they make a mean pot of red beans and rice.
2. If you make your own, what do you put in it, anything different or unique? Do you use dried beans or canned beans?
Dried beans, Camellia brand specifically (the best, read the feature story on the company in the May/June 2014 issue of Louisiana Kitchen & Culture, order them shipped to you if your local grocery doesn’t carry the brand), and I soak them overnight. LK&C culinary media director and C.I.A.-trained chef David Gallent does not; it’s part of the ritual with me, though. I think the pre-soaked bean produces a creamier pot of beans. They need to cook low and slow, 3 to 4 hours. You’ll know they’re ready to go when the liquid in the pot turns into a natural, creamy gravy. My basic recipe is here, but I add ham hocks or a ham bone if possible.
Two summers ago, when hurricane Isaac was looming in the Gulf of Mexico, I took stock of my freezer to see what I could cook vs. lose in the inevitable power failure — I had all the makings for red beans, so I made a big batch the day before the storm was due. My husband made sure both propane tanks were full for our gas grill, and moved it under shelter. As it turned out, the storm stalled after the eye came ashore, and sat over us for 36 hours. Our power was out from Tuesday early until Sunday afternoon, and I ended up being cook for a lot of our neighbors. We stacked up ice chests in my kitchen and pooled our resources; Wednesday morning everyone brought over their breakfast items and we cooked breakfast on the grill. Those beans lasted for three days, and several neighbors declared them the best they’d ever had. What got everyone talking, though, was the spectacular Bolognese sauce I produced on the grill Saturday night; you can only hold a piece of beef in melting ice so long. I cooked the roast down in a couple of quarts of my red sauce that was also in the freezer, boiled some pasta, made garlic bread, and sautéed broccoli with garlic and lemon, all on the barbecue grill. The side burner was a lifesaver; my kitchen is (unfortunately) electric. No power in south Louisiana in August means we were miserably hot, and the food was pretty heavy, but we ate every bite.
3. What do you eat with your red beans? Chicken, pork chops, turkey, salads, or do you put enough in it that you don’t need anything else?
My beans are hearty enough that, served over hot steamed rice, all I add is a salad or a platter of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.
4. Do you only eat red beans and rice on the traditional Monday or is any day of the week alright?
Growing up, red beans were served on Mondays in the school cafeteria, and my baby sitter made them on Mondays. Since I soak overnight and simmer on the stove for several hours, it’s generally a weekend recipe. I make a big batch always, because leftovers freeze beautifully in quart-sized freezer bags. Those are pulled out for a quick, delicious dinner any night I don’t feel like (or have time for) cooking.
5. What are you working on now? Do you have anything coming out soon?
We’re putting the finishing touches on the July/August edition of the magazine, and, believe it or not, are planning the holiday issue and 2015. I wanted a cold pickled shrimp and vegetable concoction for the cover of July/August, and Chef Scott Varnedoe of Restaurant I.P.O. in Baton Rouge developed a recipe for me. We shot it last week; I couldn’t stop eating it after we were done. I swear, it’s some of the best food I’ve put in my mouth in a long time. I’ve got a family reunion in a couple of weeks; my family is in for a treat.
This past weekend I judged the Louisiana Seafood Cookoff; ten chefs from around the state competed and produced some outstanding food. As usual, though, the simplest dish won; Chef Aaron Burgau made a crawfish pasta dish that took first place. As this year’s King of Louisiana Seafood, he will go on to compete in the Great American Seafood Cookoff that will take place the first weekend of August, here in New Orleans during the Louisiana Foodservice Expo.
The previous weekend, I took Chefs Cory Bahr (Cotton, Nonna, both in Monroe), Austin Kerzner (Redfish Grill, New Orleans), Jason Brady (Wine Country Bistro, Shreveport), and Dustie Latiolais (Crawfish Town USA, Henderson) to Lake Chicot in Chicot State Park. We “camped” in deluxe cabins on the lake, the chefs fished, various locals cooked local specialties featuring the region’s smoked meats, and the chefs did a crawfish boil and fish fry. We worked hard and played harder; that story will be in the Sept/Oct issue of LK&C.
You can find Louisiana Kitchen & Culture Magazine at Barnes & Noble, Hastings, and Books a Million nationally, and at select newsstands and grocery stores throughout the south. Or, order it online; while you’re there, sign up for the free email newsletter published every Thursday morning, with recipes.