New Orleans is known as a city with great restaurants. However, not all of the great cooks are found in restaurants. You can find a great cook just by knocking on most neighborhood doors.

From Gumbo to Jambalaya to Red Beans and Rice, these one pot dishes are staples in kitchens across Louisiana. They can also be found in the finer restaurants in town. In the home kitchen, these dishes are as easy to prepare as they are to clean up after.

Another down home dish that can be found around Louisiana is the Natchitoches Meat Pie. Mrs. Wheat’s pies can be found in many grocery store freezer sections. However, they are not difficult to make and taste much better when they are home made.

The traditional Monday meal in New Orleans is Red Beans and Rice. Monday was wash day. Wives needed a dish that would cook long and slow. Red Beans is the perfect dish. Women would have used whatever meat was leftover from Sunday’s meal, usually pork. Traditionally, Red Beans are served with sausage, either smoked or Andouille. But many neighborhood restaurants offer them with other meats, like fried Pork Chops. Try it one Monday or whichever day you do laundry. Just remember to put the beans on to soak on the night before.

Red Beans and Rice

1 pound dried Red (Kidney) Beans, I prefer Camellia Brand
3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Tasso or Ham, chopped
1 1/2 cups Onions, chopped
3/4 cup Celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
2 tablespoons Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Dried Thyme
1 1/2 pounds Smoked Sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons Garlic, minced
10 cups Chicken Stock
4 cups Cooked White Rice

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for at least 8 hours. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the Tasso and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the onions and celery to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and start to thicken, about two hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more stock, about 1/4 cup at a time). Remove from heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15-20 minutes. Remove Bay Leaves before serving over rice.

The Natchitoches Meat Pie is Louisiana’s answer to the Central American Empanadas. Natchitoches is located in the North Central part of Louisiana. It was made famous in the movie Steel Magnolias. But I think that the Meat Pie is their real claim to fame. A soft flaky dough filled with seasoned meat, deep fried to perfection.

Natchitoches Meat Pies

1 pound Ground Beef
1/2 pound Ground Pork
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Flour
1/2 cup Onions, minced
1/4 cup Celery, minced
1/4 cup Green Bell Pepper, minced
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 15oz package refrigerated Pie Dough at room temperature

Preheat Deep Fryer to 375℉.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until it is a nutty brown color, 2-3 minutes. Stir in vegetables and cook until soft and onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add meats and brown until they are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in the Creole Seasoning and drain the fat. Cool to room temperature. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Use a 5-inch cookie cutter to cut circles in the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture and put it in the center of the dough round. Fold the dough over and seal the edges using a fork. You may need to combine and reroll the dough scraps to make 15 meat pies. Deep fry pies in small batches until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve while hot.

Red Beans and Rice was a favorite of New Orleanian Louis Armstrong. He would sign any correspondence with Red Beans and Ricely Yours. One day I will share with y’all his family recipe.