Story and photos by JOYANNA LOVE
A unique flavor from Louisiana has found a home on Clanton’s Lake Mitchell shore at Lake Mitchell Marina.
The restaurant offers a variety of New Orleans-style foods, including the iconic red beans and rice on select weekends.
“Years ago in New Orleans, every Monday was red beans and rice day, and the reason was because before they had washers and dryers it was also wash day, so it was a thing they could put on the stove and leave it … and they could get their washing done,” Diane Knighten of Lake Mitchell Marina said.
Monday has continued to be the traditional day for serving this dish.
“Even when I was growing up, my momma had red beans and rice every Monday,” Knighten said.
Beau Battaglia of Lake Mitchell Marina said several restaurants in New Orleans continue the tradition by having red beans and rice as their special on Mondays.
Today, there are many variations of this Louisiana favorite. Knighten’s version adds smoked sausage.
“Some people will do fried chicken on the side,” Knighten said. “Some people did pickle meat, which they probably don’t even have here. It’s like a pickled pork, like a salt pork.”
Knighten’s recipe had been all from memory until she wrote it down for Lake Mitchell Marina.
The flavor makes the dish stand out, Knighten said
Jesse Knighten said the recipe has a good consistency.
“A lot of red beans are too watery,” Jesse Knighten said
Battaglia said the recipe is thicker than some other varieties.
“It makes its own juicy flavor,” Diane Knighten said.
She said it is important to take the bay leaves out before serving the dish.
Jesse Knighten does most of the cooking at Lake Mitchell Marina.
“My whole life both of my parent cooked,” Jesse Knighten said. “My dad more than my mom. I just learned a lot from him, and I’ve just always liked trying new things.”
The Knightens moved to Clanton after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Diane Knighten said she had been looking for a place with water, hills and space in between neighbors.
“We’re still pretty close to New Orleans,” Knighten said.
She has been back to visit several times.
Battaglia moved to Clanton to open a restaurant.
“There was nothing to go back to after Katrina … I was going to start over one way or another, so I came here,” Battaglia said.
The first location was in downtown Clanton and served exclusively New Orleans-inspired fare.
Later, they moved to the marina.
“I like the laidback customers because they are just out here to have a good time and relax,” Diane Knighten said. “They really appreciate our food, and that gives me satisfaction.”
Jesse Knighten said hearing that people like the food is a highlight for him also.
Battaglia said he enjoys having a view of Lake Mitchell.
The view and the taste of the red beans and rice may have some feeling like they have transported to New Orleans.
Red Beans & Rice (for a crowd)
3 pounds red beans
7 cups Manda Smoked Sausage
2 large onions
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning
3 tablespoons parsley
Combine all ingredients in large pot and fill pot three-fourths with water. Cook on high until boiling, stirring every 10 minutes. Reduce heat and stir every 30 minutes until beans are tender, usually three or four hours. Steam rice according to directions either in rice cooker or microwave.
Serve beans over rice.