Carnival season means two things: King Cakes and Professor Carl Nivale. For over 20 years Professor Carl Nivale has appeared on WWL-TV as the morning show’s Mardi Gras expert. He covers everything from the historical aspects of carnival along with trivia, facts and stories.
The professor has become the New Orleans carnival historian and go-to for anything Mardi Gras. He put together the complete ‘Carnivale Compendium & Mardi Gras Manual‘ online. The graduate of the “Kings’ College of Carnival Knowledge” covers everything from the history of Mardi Gras, going all the way back to the times before there was New Orleans and Jesus to when the ancient times had pagan beliefs. He explains the krewes, walking clubs, what not to do, native New Orleanian customs, an in-depth glossary, links and more. If you want to know anything about Mardi Gras, the professor is who you need to seek out. He puts his PhMG degree (that’s a Doctorate of Mardi Gras) to good use so you are sure to have a memorable carnival season!
Professor Carl Nivale said it best when he said, “Carnival happens because of all of the people involved. Everyone who participates in carnival makes the magic happen. And that includes you at home. Go grab a costume!” He wants you, whether a visitor or a local, to know and understand the rich history of the carnival season while having the greatest time ever.
I asked Professor Carl Nivale, “How Do You Red Bean?”
1. Where’s your favorite place to order red beans and rice?
I have to say my favorite place to order red beans and rice is my own kitchen. It is one of my favourite New Orleans dishes to prepare and enjoy. I admit to being spoiled early on. My first red beans were from the Lena Richard recipe, then I got to taste the Buster Holmes recipe shortly afterward. I used to love Chef Donnie Jay’s red beans for the old Andrew Jager’s House of Seafood in the Vieux Carre, and there were simple joys in the red beans and rice at the late La Peniche in the faubourg Marigny. But when I’m in the mood for red beans every Monday, I want them homemade, either my home or those of my friends and colleagues.
2. Do you put any unique ingredients in your pot of red beans? Do you prefer dried or canned beans?
I prefer Camellia dried beans. I begin by soaking my beans in all the seasonings and a concentrated low-sodium chicken broth to infuse them with flavor from the start. The right sausage is always the key to good red beans. My personal preference is Vaucresson sausages. This year, I’m trying to grow my own beans to see what new flavors fresh imparts. If I do use canned beans, I always get Blue Runner. In recent years a number of our revellers have become vegans, so my recipe has been altered to accommodate them. It’s a very interesting way of cooking. I’ve also experimented with different types of rice. I prefer a brown rice for my red beans, but I’ve had success with sushi rice (it’s almost like a breakfast version of red beans.) and orzo pasta (changes the texture of the dish, but its a pleasant change.)
3. What do you eat with red beans and rice?
I prefer my red beans alone. A singular experience to enjoy. But when entertaining, I include a couple of baguette toasted with minced garlic butter and a nice salad with green goddess dressing. Classic.
4. Do you only eat red beans and rice on traditional Mondays or any day of the week?
I don’t know a single New Orleanian who will turn down red beans and rice on any day! But I do admit that I get the cravings around Sunday evenings, and that’s when the beans go into the broth.
5. What are you currently working on?
As ever, Carnival and Mardi Gras! Already in preparations for next year, which will mark my 20th anniversary appearing every Carnival on WWL-TV‘s Morning Show with Eric Paulsen and Sally-Ann Roberts. This season we will be adding a new series of “Our Carnival Heritage” videos for our Facebook and YouTube pages, and of course I will be back on The Morning Show on Mardi Gras morning.
PROF. CARL NIVALE’S RED BEANS & RICE
2 cups dried red beans
3 cups low or no sodium chicken broth, double strength
1 cup Riesling wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Crystal Hot Sauce (none other will do)
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, minced and softened
1 clove garlic, also minced and softened
1 tablespoon peanut oil for onions & garlic
1 large sausage, diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Combine all ingredients except sausage, parsley, onions, garlic, and oil in a large bowl and begin to soak. While beans are soaking, take the pot you intend to use to cook the beans and add the oil over a medium heat. When the oil is heated, drop the minced onions and garlic and soften, stirring constantly for about five minutes. Add the softened alliums to the soaking mixture and mix.
Allow the mix to set overnight.
Next morning, dice the sausage and brown in the pot, adding additional oil or butter if necessary. When the sausage is uniformly brown, pour the bean soak mixture directly into the pot and cover with a lid. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over a medium heat and then reduce to low. Simmer for another two hours, then remove about a quarter of the red beans and sauce. You can either mash or blend this quantity (just be certain your bay leaf isn’t in the batch to be crushed!) until it becomes a slurry. Then return to the rest of the mixture, add parsley, stir, and cook for another hour to 90 minutes, or until the beans reach the desired consistency.
Serve with brown rice seasoned with butter and salt. The diner who gets the bay leaf is proclaimed King or Queen Red Bean and must therefore throw the next red bean dinner.
VEGAN RED BEANS & RICE
Make the following substitutions to the above recipe:
Low or no-sodium chicken flavored vegetable broth, double strength.
1 seitan, or wheat meat vegan sausage. I use Field Roast.
If using butter, I prefer Earth Balance spread.
Vegan Worcestershire sauce. I use Annie’s Naturals
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