The Palace's Red Beans and RiceThe Palace is an 80-year-old culinary institution on the corner of the courthouse square in downtown Opelousas, Louisiana.
As a reporter in the town, I quickly found the lunch counter the best place to do my work. Everyone came through the place at some point during the day and I could see everything going on in the square through the window. I also ate quite well.
While all the offerings were excellent (I still think about the taste of those Shrimp Po-Boys every so often), by far, the greatest dish served at The Palace was the Tuesday lunch special - Red Beans & Rice. The cook that made it has been working there for more than three decades and she takes the dish past simple good into the realm of magical.
They were kind enough to give me the recipe when I asked once and I quickly found out why it was so special. Turns out, the dish is more technique than anything. There is really nothing spectacular about the recipe itself.
So, over the years I have practiced making it and tried as hard as I could to get close to that certain perfection you find on Tuesday's at The Palace. And then when I end up in Opelousas and try it once more - I realize how far I have to go to really doing it right.
Soak beans in water with a dash of baking powder overnight. Drain water and set aside. Chop. Heat grease in dutch oven over medium hot flame. Throw in onion, celery and bell peppers. Stir and cook covered till soft.
Add meat and beans. (note: I often try and get stew meat on the bone) Mix well and add enough water to cover by an inch. Add salt, pepper and red pepper to taste. Cover pot, turn flame to low and let cook slowly. Stir as needed to keep from burning on bottom of the pan. When the beans really start to break down and the fluid becomes heavy it is done. Usually in two hours or so.
Serve over rice, of course.
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