White Beans: (Not) Always a Bridesmaid

Visit any well-established spot in New Orleans and you will inevitably see white beans and rice as one of the Monday-through-Friday plate lunch options. White beans and chicken, white beans and sausage, white beans and pork chops, white beans and fried fish – the pairings are endless.

“White beans” can be any of several varieties of beans – navy, cannelloni or great northern, for instance. And while white beans usually play second fiddle to red beans in these parts, they can hold their own when cooked long and slow and with any of a plethora of locally available seasoning meats, such as pickled (rib) tips, smoked or andouille sausage, smoked turkey necks, ham hocks or tasso.

One of my favorite places to get a white bean plate lunch was a small grocery store in south Baton Rouge called Bet-R. Bet-R had tenaciously survived as a neighborhood grocer in the days of big box retailers and large regional conglomerates. I never knew the lady’s name who supervised the kitchen in the back of the store, but she had a smile that could light up your day.

Whenever I went in for a plate of white beans, she would take special care to pick through the tray of accompanying fried pork chops or chicken and pick out the biggest, crispiest pieces in the bunch. Needless to say, I loved her, and I think she knew it.

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