Rican White Rice and Kidney Beans
Serves 8 to 10 on the side, to 6 as a meal
A white rice dish in Spanish-speaking countries is simply rice cooked plain as a side dish in whatever manner locally prevails. In Puerto Rico, rice and beans are served side by side or together as a meal, or as separate side dishes to accompany any a main dish of meat or chicken. Another major use for the kidney bean preparation used in this dual recipe is with Arroz con Pollo which is always served with peas or beans either on top or on the side. This recipe calls for medium-grain rice, traditional in Puerto Rican cooking.The Japanese type grown in California is good. The recipe departs from tradition, as do today's health-conscious Puerto Rican cooks, in using oil instead of the cooking fat. The aji dulce chile used in the recaito (a made-from-scratch flavoring paste to Puerto Rican cooking) is a tiny, wrinkled, flying-saucer-shaped sweet chili that looks and smells like the incendiary habanero or scotch bonnet chile but lacks the heat. Sometimes simply called aji in Puerto Rico (though that word just means chile in other parts of Latin America), it is available in mainland stores with Puerto Rican customers. If unavailable, just do without -- don't substitute hot chiles.
1 pound of dried red kidney beans
1/2 pound calabaza (Caribbean squash or pumpkin) or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled
2 Italian green peppers or 1 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
2 Large cloves garlic, smashed flat
3 aji dulce chiles, if available (see headnote above)
6 to 8 sprigs cilantro (fresh coriander)
2 tabLespoons olive or corn oil
1/4 cup diced ham or salt pork (traditional but optional)
4 ounces (1/2 can) tomato sauce (not needed if beans are to be served with Arroz con Pollo)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups medium-grain rice
2 teaspoons salt
Rinse the beans and pick out any pebbles, dirt, or other stray hits of matter. Then put the beans in a large pot with 6 cups of water to soak overnight - or bring to a boil, boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, cover, and soak for 1 hour. After the soak, bring to a boil, add the calabaza, reduce heat, and simmer 1 to 2 hours, or until the beans are tender but not mushy.
While the beans are cooking, prepare the recaito. Coarsely chop all the ingredients listed and process in a food processor until very finely minced but not watery.
Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ham or salt pork, if using, and cook 5 minutes. Remove any solid fat pieces but leave the meat in the pot. Add the recaito and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato sauce, if using, and cook, stirring, to reduce and darken. Stir into the beans and cook together until the beans are done. With a wooden spoon, smash the calabaza pieces against the sides of the pot and stir them into the bean juice to thicken the juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When the beans are partially cooked, prepare the rice. Put 3 cups cold
water in a large heavy kettle over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Put rice
in a large strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water
runs clear. Shake and rake the rice to drain. When the water is boiling,
add the salt and the rice. Return to a boil, then adjust heat to boil moderately,
uncovered, until surface water disappears (Puerto Rican cooks say "until
the rice is dry"). Reduce heat to very low. With a wooden spoon, turn
rice once from bottom to top, then cover the pot and cook 10 minutes. Turn
once more, replace cover, and cook another 10 minutes, or longer if a pegao,
or crust, is desired . When serving, scrape up any rice that has stuck
to the bottom and serve on a separate plate.