Red Beans & Rice

1 lb red beans
2 quarts homemade or canned chicken broth, or I sometimes use
stock from a ham hock, carrots, celery, and onions, if I
have some already and I don't have a "fresh" ham hock. If
I use ham hock stock, I omit the ham hock described below
(I'm not positive about the exact amount, but see the note
below)
1 large onion, chopped
3 bell peppers, chopped
4-5 ribs celery, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 lb smoked ham, cubed [I use 97% fat free hormel ham]
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch coins or you can omit
the sausage, but if you do, for sure add a ham hock when
you add the stock, or use ham hock stock.
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp whole dried thyme leaves

Soak the beans overnight in a big pot. Drain. Heat oil in
frying pan. Add the ham and sausage, sauteeing in oil for 5
minutes. Add the chopped garlic and toss briefly. Now add the
meat & garlic mixture to the pot of beans. Saute the onion,
bell pepper, and celery until onions are limp. Add to beans.
Deglaze the frying pan with a cup of water and add this to the
beans. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer until the the beans
are cooked and splitting and are nice and creamy. Note: I'm
not positive about the amount of liquid to use, but start by
covering the beans with the liquid about an inch higher than
the beans. Add liquid as you go. This will take 2-3 hours to
cook. You can use water if you run out of stock.

Also, if you don't use andouille sausage, you should throw in
some cajun seasoning mix, to taste, near the end (you can do
this even if you do use sausage).

Serve over rice (in New Orleans, I'm told they usually use
Uncle Ben's Converted rice, although I have heard from others
who say this is not the case.)

Serve with Tabasco.