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Recipes from Louis Armstrong, Jazz Legend and Food Lover

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Louis Armstrong at Carnegie Hall in 1947.

Louis Armstrong at Carnegie Hall in 1947.
Photo courtesy of the William P. Gottlieb Collection,
Music Division, Library of Congress.

In 1971, an ailing Louis Armstrong surprised a Washington, DC, awards ceremony audience with what would be one of his final jazz performances. The legendary trumpeter and singer was a famously intense food lover, so when a recording of the impromptu concert appeared the following year as an extremely limited vinyl release, it saluted the icon's favorite dishes. Not only was it dubbed Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours—a sign-off that Armstrong actually used in correspondence—but the liner notes also included a booklet of Armstrong's favorite recipes by New Orleans chef Christopher Blake, who prepared dinner at the event.

Only 300 copies of the album were ever made, but Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is putting out a reissue on April 24 that will include the recipes. Among them are seafood and chicken gumbos, cocktails like the Ramos gin fizz and Armstrong's favorite red beans and rice, which we have here.

From the liner notes of the upcoming release Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings):

RED BEANS AND RICE
1 quart red beans. Enough water to cover.
1/2 pound pickled pork, diced, or commercial jar of pickled ham hocks, diced.
2 cups lean ham, diced, or one ham bone.
1 medium-sized onion, chopped.
1 cup tomato ketchup.
1 tablespoon vinegar.
Salt and pepper to taste.
1 teaspoon Tabasco  pepper sauce.
Sprig of thyme or pinch of fresh thyme.
Pick over beans. Wash and soak red beans overnight. When ready to cook, drain off all the water.
In a heavy pot such as a Dutch oven, brown the diced pickled pork and add the chopped onions. Cook for about ten minutes. Add the beans, the tomato ketchup, salt and pepper, vinegar, thyme and Tabasco pepper sauce.
Cover with fresh cold water, making sure that there is enough water as the beans must cook thoroughly. After water has come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beans are semi-cooked. Mash about a cupful of the beans and return to the pot. Add the diced ham or the ham bone and cook slowly for two or three hours or until the beans are thoroughly cooked and the sauce is rich and creamy. As they say in New Orleans, red beans need no thickening because they got it in themselves.
Serve with fluffy Louisiana boiled rice and garnish wilh fried ham slices or fried country sausage. Also chopped onions, vinegar and Tabasco pepper sauce on the side and lots of hot French bread.
VARIATION: Place leftover beans in a blender and puree. Add one third milk to the puree and blend well. Heat thoroughly, add a tablespoon of dry sherry and serve as red bean soup garnished with a slice of lemon and a chopped hard-boiled egg.

Related: Cajun & Creole Recipes

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