This year we celebrate our nation’s independence with red beans and rice. What does this dish have to do with the Fourth of July, you may wonder. Our reasoning goes something like this: The Fourth is the quintessential American holiday. Jazz music is a quintessentially American art form. Louis Armstrong is one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, and his birthday falls on the Fourth of July. And, a renowned, prodigious eater, Armstrong absolutely loved red beans and rice. In fact, he loved them so much he often signed his letters, “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.” See, it’s perfectly logical.
Now, for a special occasion like the Fourth, we party with the best, hitting up local favorite Brasa for their amazing version of the dish. Although technically a “side,” Chef Alex Roberts’s Creole-inspired “Yellow Rice and Beans” is a main attraction (priced at $2.95 / $5.75 / $11.25 for small / medium / large). It all starts with the beans, which the chef soaks overnight for softness and to neutralize the starches that some people find difficult to digest. Roberts then adds sofrito (a mixture of onion, garlic, peppers, and a little tomato), tasso ham that’s smoked in house, and spices. Slowly cooked, the thick-but-not-too-thick mixture is rich, smoky, and just a tad spicy. The perfectly cooked beans are studded with small chunks of pork — little treasures that add texture and so much deliciousness.
Of course, red beans and rice wouldn’t be complete without the rice. Chef Roberts serves seasoned yellow rice, rather than the more traditional white, because, he tells us, that’s what his customers like. He cooks the grains in water with a puree of sofrito, annatto oil (which gives the rice its yellow hue), and sea salt. Once Roberts has worked his magic, the rice is tender with a mellow flavor and attractive coloring. While it tastes great on its own, it really shines when paired with the stronger beans.
When we called up Roberts to talk to him about our favorite Independence Day treat, he pointed out that “Creole food is as American as jazz. It’s a mixture of styles and cultures that blend to create this new type of cuisine.” Brasa, he went on to say, “pays homage to this amazing food of the Americas.”
So this year we celebrate the Fourth, Louis Armstrong, and Creole cuisine by chowing down on Brasa’s marvelous Red Beans and Rice. When there are fireworks in the sky and barbecues in seemingly every backyard, it really does feel like a wonderful world.
Learn more about this business on Heavy Table’s Atlas of Ethical Eating and Drinking.