Recipe for Puerto Rican Rice & Beans
Inspired by my trip to Puerto Rico last week, I decided to post a favorite recipe: My wife, Vicky, doesn’t cook that much but one thing she does really well is arroz con habichuelas, or rice & beans. This is a side dish that is very prominent in comida criolla. I believe that a Puerto Rican cannot survive very long without arroz con habichuelas. Then there are pasteles also necessary for survival which is another story all together…
Recaíto is the base for sofrito which you may have seen jars of in the supermarket. The basic ingredient is recao leaves which are long, green, spiny leaves which smell like cilantro. Depending on how sophisticated your supermarket is in the latin section, you may or may not find it. I can find it in my Whole Foods Market on occasion. Use six leaves if you can find it, otherwise substitute with fresh cilantro as I did below. This recipe will make more than you need. Freeze the rest for future use.
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 Cubanelle peppers, cored, seeded & diced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until the consistency of pesto sauce.
Habichuelas de Vicky
I like a little smoked ham in mine; Vicky prefers her beans without. If you choose to add ham, use 1/4 pound or less, diced. Add to olive oil initially and saute for 3 minutes.
- 1/4 pound calabaza (the best substitute is butternut squash), cubed into 1/2″ pieces (peeling is optional; we like the added nutritional value with skin)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 Cup Recaíto (above)
- 1 Cup tomato sauce
- 2 Cups water (you can also use chicken stock AND have a litle extra liquid on hand to adjust the consistency if necessary)
- 1/2 Cup alcaparrado (if you cannot find jars of this, use pimiento stuffed Spanish olives with a small mixture of capers; Some supermarkets sell bottles of Spanish olives and pimientos marked as ” Spanish Salad Mix” and you will still need to add capers. I have seen alcaparrado in stores.
- 2 cans of Habichuelas Rosadas (pink beans) – Goya is a good brand. Do not buy Kidney beans. Do not buy Navy beans. Do not buy Red beans. Buy PINK beans.
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 packet of Sazón Goya con Culantro y Achiote
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat; add olive oil. Saute Recaíto for a few minutes; add tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Add calabaza and water; bring to a boil and cook until calabaza is tender. Add alcaparrado and beans. Season with black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Serves 6.
My mom marvels at how perfect Vicky’s rice is. In the States, we tend to fuss over rice cookers, measuring exactly and using the right type of rice. Vicky does it all without thinking about it. In fact, she was a little bothered by me following her around the kitchen and asking for exact measurements on the above recipes. “I dunno,” she answered, “maybe that much…” as she held her fingers a few inches apart and gave me a frustrated frown…
My theory is that the perfect rice is made by heating the grains in the saucepan before adding liquid. This, I believe, is her (and many other Puerto Rican women’s) secret. One unique characteristic of Puerto Rican rice is a condition called pegao: rice on the bottom of the pot browns a bit and gets crispy but not burnt. Vicky doesn’t like this but I do – along with many Puerto Ricans. It’s all a matter of taste.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 Cups white long grain rice
- 3 Cups water
- pinch of salt
Heat a saucepan over high heat. Add olive oil and heat. Stir in dry rice and stir frequently until the rice looks shiny from the oil – about 1 minute or less. Add water, bring to a boil, add salt, stir and cover. Reduce heat to low and cook until rice dries somewhat, roughly 15 – 20 minutes. Fluff and recover; cook for 5 minutes more. Test for doneness. If needed, add a small amount of water and cook longer. For pegao, leave the rice on the stove a little longer. Serves 6.
Serve beans over rice.
Do not stop and take photographs as your spouse will become mad over the fact the food is getting cold. In Puerto Rican restaurants, the beans are served separately in a small bowl. Some people like less beans over their rice.
I like a lot!
NOTE: You will find that you might want to tweak the recipe over a few tries. Whether or not you use ham, how much liquid you add to the beans, how long you cook the rice, etc.. I like a little more alcaparrado in my beans and sometimes I like to sprinkle a little pickled pepper juice over my plate before eating. It’s basically all a matter of taste. Start with this recipe then improve it to your own tastes. And don’t worry about cooking too much – this stuff is great as a leftover!
About this entry
You’re currently reading “Recipe for Puerto Rican Rice & Beans,” an entry on Robert Leedy Watercolors
- February 2, 2010 / 9:20 pm