RED BEANS AND RICE
3 lb Red kidney beans, dry OR light red beans OR cranberry beans
Water to cover
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4 teaspoons (or more to taste) cayenne pepper, ground
3/4 lb ham trimmings, lean OR 6 ham hocks
1/2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
1/2 teaspoons (or more to taste) tabasco sauce
6 cups water (more as needed)
2 lb spicy sausage sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups celery, finely chopped
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 cups bell pepper, finely chopped
5 bay leaves
2 teaspoons white pepper
8 cups cooked rice (or more)
2 teaspoons thyme
Empty the beans into a 6-quart saucepan. Run water over them, washing them with your hands and picking out any stones or bad beans. Drain and repeat until the water runs clear and has no sand in it.
Add water to the pot to cover the beans by about 4 inches. Place on a large burner and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly, boil gently for 3 minutes, remove from burner and cover. Let the covered pot sit, unopened, for an hour. Drain and reserve the beans, discarding the juice.
Place the ham pieces, 2 cups of water, the chopped vegetables and seasonings in a 12-quart saucepan or large dutch oven. Stir well, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is fork tender, about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove the meat from the pan and tear it into small pieces. Set it aside. (If using ham hocks, cover with water to cook. The beans will have to cook down longer to reach their normal consistency. You may not need to add any extra water.)
Add the drained beans and 2 cups water to the pan with the ham broth and vegetables. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sliced sausage and 2 cups more water if the beans are not covered with liquid and continue simmering until the beans start breaking into pieces, about 35 more minutes, stirring often to the bottom of the pan.
If the beans start to scorch, do not stir. Instead, immediately remove them from the heat and transfer them to another pot without scraping any scorched beans into the mixture. Add the ham pieces or hocks and cook about 10 minutes more, stirring often. Do not let the mixture get dried out like refried beans, but keep it thicker than cream soup.