Let’s face it—we’re still in the holiday season, and what with all the snow much of the country has been getting, it’s okay if you want something utterly yummy to stick inside your belly. Exercising doesn’t start on New Year’s, it starts right after Super Bowl Sunday ... everybody knows that.
So I feel entitled to pass on a delicious recipe for ham hocks and red beans that comes from the unmatchable creative mind of Louis Armstrong. The legendary jazz trumpeter used to sign off his letters, “Red Beans And Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong,” and he talked about red beans a lot in his autobiography, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. For instance:
They used to laugh like mad when I first began to practice my cornet. Then as the days went on they began to listen and to make little comments, the way kids will. Then we began to understand one another. They were growing rapidly, and the more they grew the more they ate. I soon learned what a capacity they had, and I learned to take precautions. Whenever I cooked a big pot of beans and rice and ham hocks they would manage to eat up most of it before I could get to the table. Willie could make a plate full of food vanish faster than anyone I ever saw. (p. 55)
I thought her Creole gumbo was the finest in the world. Her cabbage and rice was marvelous. As for red beans and rice, well, I don’t have to say anything about that. It is my birth mark. (p. 85, emphasis mine)
As Satchmo said, “No need to make folks think I like fancy foods like quail on toast, chicken and hot biscuits, or steak smothered in mushrooms. Of course they taste good and I can eat them, but have you ever tried ham hocks and red beans?” Exactly right. And here’s the recipe the way he liked it:
Louis Armstrong’s Ham Hocks and Red Beans
1 pound dried red beans water
1 pound ham hock
1 bay leaf
1 pod red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
1 pod garlic, minced
Wash beans and soak two to three hours or overnight if preferred.
When ready to cook, drain off water and put beans in large pot with two quarts cold water. Let water heat thoroughly, then add ham hocks, herbs, onion and garlic. Cook slowly but steadily at least two hours or until tender enough to mash easily.
When done, place in a dish and lay ham hocks on top. May be served with rice.
I propose serving it for your Super Bowl gathering, or barring that, then for the “Big Game.” Doesn’t it look good?
Source: Freda DeKnight, A Date with a Dish, a Cookbook of American Negro Recipes. New York: Hermitage Press, 1948. Forgive the title, it’s a very old book. Freda DeKnight died in 1963 at the young age of fifty-three. She was the cooking columnist for Ebony and her books are still in print.