The Red Bean Queen of New Orleans

In April, Emily Shaya beat out 31 other competitors (including many New Orleans chefs and restaurants) to win the Krewe of Red Beans’ Bean Madness 2019 Championship and take home the prestigious Legume D’Or trophy. Money raised in the event was donated to charities, including Crescent City Farmers Market.

Photographer Denny Culbert captured Emily cooking her celebrated dish at the Shaya’s New Orleans home during the final throes of the three-week competition.

Following is the recipe for Emily’s red beans and rice from her husband’s cookbook.



Emily’s Famous Red Beans & Rice

Yield: 10 to 12 Servings

2 pounds dried red beans, soaked overnight
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces bacon, chopped
2 yellow onions, divided

2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped 

2 dried bay leaves, divided 

1 tablespoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large smoked ham hock or shank
1 ½ quarts chicken stock
1 pound smoked pork sausage

4 teaspoons Morton kosher salt, divided

4 teaspoons Tabasco sauce, plus more for serving
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup canola oil

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

1 pound jasmine rice
3 cups water, or more as needed
1 bunch scallions, sliced

  1. Drain the beans, and set them aside. 

  2. Warm the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook, stirring occasionally to break it up, for 6 to 8 minutes, until it’s golden. 

  3. Meanwhile, chop one of the onions. When most of the bacon’s fat has rendered, add the onion to the pot, along with the celery, bell pepper, and one of the bay leaves, stirring well to coat everything with the fat. 

  4. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the celery and bell pepper just start to soften. Stir in the paprika and cayenne, allowing the spices to toast for a minute or so. 

  5. Add the beans, ham hock, and stock. Increase the heat to high to bring everything up to a boil, then skim any foam from the top of the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cover with the lid. Let it cook, low and slow, for at least 3 hours, until the beans are falling apart. It’s not a soup, but there should be enough broth so that you see some movement in the pot; top it off with more stock if you need to.

  6. Fish the ham hock out of the pot, pull all the meat off the bone, give it a rough chop, and add it back to the pot; slice the sausage about 1/4 inch thick and add that, too. Season with 2 teaspoons salt, Tabasco, and sugar. (Yes, sugar—it might seem odd, but it gets all the ingredients to play together nicely.) Continue to cook, covered, over low heat, for at least another ½ hour, until it all starts to pull together. At this point, if you prefer, you can leave it alone for a couple of hours, returning just to stir occasionally. 

  7. While that happens, make the rice: First, chop the other onion. Combine the canola oil and butter with the other bay leaf in a separate pot over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the onion and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. 

  8. As soon as the onion is translucent, stir in the rice. Defer to the package instructions for a water ratio; for 1 pound (about 2 cups) of jasmine rice, I add 3 cups of water. Increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer; then decrease the heat to low, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until it’s tender. 

  9. Remove the rice from heat and let it rest for 10 minutes with the lid on, then fluff it with a fork. Remove and discard the bay leaves from both pots. Serve red beans over a scoop of rice, and sprinkle with scallions.


Excerpted from Shaya by Alon Shaya. Copyright © 2018 by Alon Shaya. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.