Tag Archives: cajun

Bannos and Lagasse, A Blast From Their Past

Every great chef has things in their culinary history that helps to define their future. Jimmy Bannos of Chicago’s Heaven on Seven is certainly no exception.

I LOVE going any of his restaurants. And, when I was full time in the Windy, I spent more than a few lunchtimes planted on a counter stool at the Wabash location savoring some of the best gumbo to come out of any kitchen, anywhere.

On a recent trip back, the allure of a bowl of etouffee or jambalaya or maybe even an LSD (Louisiana Soul Deluxe) was far to much for my weak self control. A Heaven on Seven fix was required.

My lunch measured up in every expected way. But, my trip to the rear of the restaurant turned up an unexpected piece of kitchen camaraderie. Straight from the walls of Heaven on Seven on Rush.

Jimmy Bannos & Emeril Lagasse

Pretty great right? I’m not sure of the time or location. It looks like it may have been taken at an event of some sort. They look happy, but not exhausted from barking out orders in a hectic kitchen all night. Maybe one of the two can time/date stamp this little piece of the past for us.

It’s pretty well known that Jimmy honed his craft in some of the great kitchens of the Crescent City. And, when you do that you’re obviously rubbing shoulders with some pretty masterful chefs. Here’s a little photographic evidence that the two of those talents actually enjoy each other. It’s a pretty simple image. But, it still manages to say a mouthful.

OF INTEREST…

Heaven on Seven
Emeril’s Restaurants
I Made Jimmy’s Famous Gumbo!
The Heaven on Seven Cookbook: Where It’s Mardi Gras All the Time!

A Monday Dish That’s Great Any Day

 

I’m always skeptical of anything that is called “The Best, The Greatest or World Famous”. It’s just my nature.

Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook

This past Tuesday just happened to be Fat Tuesday. It’s the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the official end of the Mardi Gras season. If you’re going to cook or eat any type of creole or Cajun style food, this was a pretty good day to do it.

It’s a day when people who normally don’t partake in this particular type of regional cuisine enjoy a bowl of gumbo or a sweet and salty corn bread muffin. Think corned beef and cabbage here (oh, and green beer). It’s the same “everybody’s Irish for a day” concept.

From 1944 to 1994 in the famous New Orleans French Quarter, a man named Buster Holmes was cooking up some amazing classic Creole food. Legend has it, people would travel a pretty long way to get some of Buster’s cooking. One particular dish of his was so notable that it earned him the nickname, “King of Red Beans and Rice”.

KING!! That’s impressive. Considering, there has to be a thousand places in a 10 miles radius of the French Quarter that have red beans and rice on their menu. At least a thousand. That may even be an understatement. If any food claim warranted a more thorough investigation, this was certainly in the running.

As you can see above, Buster has a cookbook. It’s entitled, appropriately enough, The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook. And, I have a copy.

Contained within the pages of this book are fantastic stories of Buster and his French Quarter pals whooping it up and enjoying life, each other and of course food. Also included in Buster’s cookbook is the recipe for his “World Famous” Red Beans and Rice.

You don’t think for one minute that I’m not going to check this out do you? Correct. Let’s do it!

Just looking through Buster’s recipe things seem very straightforward (as do the rest of the recipes in the book). I’m checking out the ingredients and the steps and thinking to myself, “What separates his red beans recipe from all of the others. The non world famous ones?”.

You start off with a pound of dried red beans.

Dried Red Beans

You’ll need about a pound of smoked ham hocks.

Smoked Ham Hocks

And, the usual creole/Cajun cooking vegetables. Garlic, onion and green bell pepper. Add some water and simmer in a pot.

Red Beans Simmering

I let my beans cook for the prescribed 2 hours, before preforming the finishing touches (including cooking my rice).

How could these few simple ingredients and steps yield something so good that the creator of this dish would be awarded the noble title, King of Red Beans and Rice?

I was now ready to see if I could answer the question I had been thinking about since I first turned to page 56 and looked at the recipe. It was tasting time!

Red Beans and Rice

WOW! OK, now I was really turned around. These red beans were out of this world! They were so creamy tasting, but, the beans weren’t mushy. The flavor was bold enough to stand up to a good dose of Louisiana hot sauce, but, not strong enough where you couldn’t taste the nutty flavor of the rice.

Could these beans really be called “World Famous”? I haven’t tasted all of the potential title holders, but, these are some damn good beans!

Here’s How To Do It

Ingredients
1 lb. red beans
1 lb. smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic (I smashed mine)
1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) margarine
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
Sort through beans and remove any debris (rocks, etc.). Wash the beans and place in a heavy bottomed pot. Add onion, bell pepper, ham hocks and garlic. Add enough water to the pot to cover. Simmer uncovered on a medium low heat for about two hours. You’re going to want to stir this through occasionally. Raise or lower the heat to compensate for the amount of cooking liquid lost. You’ll want to have enough liquid for the beans to have a nice consistency at the end of the cooking time. But, not too much. It’s not a soup.

When the beans are a good texture, add salt, pepper and margarine. Cook 5 minutes more. Serve on rice with Louisiana hot sauce and French bread with butter.

Recipe: Buster Holmes World Famous Red Beans and Rice, Buster Holmes, The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook. Pelican Publishing Company.

The Bottom Line

This is a fascinating collection of regional cuisine, stories and culture. Buster Holmes passed away back in 1994. And, as chance would have it, on a Monday. His book allows you a taste of what it was like to pull up a stool at the counter of his famous French Quarter eatery. Buster can’t do the cooking for you anymore, but, at least you can do it for yourself and others. Long live the KING!

Check out our video on how to makes Buster’s Famous Red Beans and Rice.

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Author: Buster Holmes
128 pages
Publisher: Pelican Publishing
ISBN-10: 1589808495
ISBN-13: 978-1589808492

 

Just in case you missed it, here are some other cookbook reviews we recently posted:

Steaks and Texas Go Great Together
How To Make Red Beans and Rice
RV Cooking: The Possibilities of an Endless Road
Taking Grilled Cheese To A Whole New Level