Rice and beans are staple foods among most people groups around the world. The different varieties and various flavorings make them versatile side dishes. Financial planner Dave Ramsey jokes about how the only foods you get to eat when you’re working to get out of debt are rice and beans, beans and rice. But if everyone made these two dishes the way my friend, Irma, makes them, they’d be happy to be eating rice and beans.
Her Puerto Rican recipes are delicious. We begged her to teach us how she makes them. We loved them so much we have even been eating them for breakfast. I cannot express to you how happy we are to have learned her secrets. And now she has graciously allowed me to share them with you.
Before we get down to business, you need to know about sofrito and sazon.
For both recipes, you need to have some “sofrito”. This is a mix of ingredients that offers great flavor for any long-cooking dishes like soups, stews, and tex-mex. Irma says to make a batch of sofrito and keep it on hand. You can freeze some in small containers. It will last for six months in the freezer. It lasts 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Do not freeze, thaw, and then refreeze.
Ingredients:1 bunch of cilantro – use stems and all (rinsed well) 1/2 onion (white or spanish) 1 red bell pepper 1 green bell pepper 1 whole head of garlic, peeled 3/4 cup olive oil
Blend all the ingredients in a food processor. Add more olive oil as needed so that the consistency becomes a little looser than paste.
Here’s another thing to learn about for both recipes. Sazon is a seasoning mix you can buy at the supermarket in the ethnic foods aisle. I had never heard of or noticed these packets of spices before, but they are available. Irma says it is a big ingredient for Caribbean style recipes. “It gives a vibrant color,” she said, “and adds another layer of flavor.” There are a few different varieties of Sazon. We used the coriander and annatto version.
And now for the recipes…
Puerto Rican Beans Recipe
Irma says they are called “Habichuelas“, which is the Spanish word for beans. “Regardless of how they are cooked,” she said, “we call them habichuelas.”
Ingredients1 lb dried pinto beans 2T olive oil 1/2 onion, chopped 1 cup sofrito 1 smoked turkey leg or wing 2-3 Tablespoons tomato1 paste (can be subbed with a 3-oz can of tomato sauce) 1 qt chicken stock 1 qt vegetable stock 3 packages of Sazon seasoning mix 1 teaspoon dried cumin 2 bay leaves 4-5 potatoes (white or red, not russet)
Soak 1 pound of dried pinto beans overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans, picking out any bad ones. Set aside.
Heat about 2 T olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
Add 1/2 chopped onion to the pot.
Add 1 cup sofrito (see recipe above) and sauté 2-3 minutes.
Add 1 smoked turkey leg or wing. Sauté, cooking on all sides
As the ingredients gets dry, you can add some olive oil. Cook until onions are opaque
Add 2-3 Tablespoons tomato paste.
Add the beans.
Add 1 qt chicken stock and 1 qt vegetable stock.
Add 3 packages of Sazon seasoning, 1 teaspoon dried cumin, and 2 bay leaves. Mix and cook on high until it begins to boil.
Turn heat down to medium low (about #4 on the stove), cover, and cook at a rolling simmer.
Check the pot at 30 minute intervals. Stir occasionally and taste after an hour, adding spices as you need. Check that the liquid is still high enough. Add in intervals of 1/2 cup water, as needed. The amount of water depends on if you want a thicker stew consistency or if you prefer more soupy beans.
After 1 hour, taste. We decided to add 1.5 teaspoons salt. We also added 1/2 cup water because we like it a bit soupy.
Add 4-5 diced potatoes. Cook the beans with the potatoes for one last hour (a total of two hours).
When finished cooking, remove the bay leaves and pull out the turkey bone. The meat should fall of the bone easily. Enjoy!
Sidenote: You can also cook this recipe in the crock pot, which is a good idea for beginner cooks and people who do not want to keep an eye on the pot. If using a crock pot, you have more freedom to leave the room or even run errands. You can’t do that when you cook on the stove because you need make sure the pot does not boil over.
Crock pot notes: Cook 1 hour on high and 1 hour on low when you put the potatoes in.
Puerto Rican Rice Recipe
Irma learned this recipe, “Arroz Guisado” and the beans recipe from her father. His parents owned a restaurant in Puerto Rico, and he was a chef for them.
Ingredients:1-1.5 cup cooked andouille sausage or ham or other meat, diced 1/4 cup canola oil 3 Tablespoons sofrito 3 packets Sazon 1 teaspoon cumin 4 cups long or medium grain plain white rice 1 quart chicken stock 2 cups water
Dice the meat and set aside.
To prevent excessive sticking of the rice to the bottom of the pot, spray the inside of a large pot with nonstick oil spray.
Add 1/4 cup canola oil (never olive oil) and heat the pot to medium heat.
Add 3 Tablespoons sofrito and cook for 1 minute.
Add the meat and cook 2-3 minutes.
Add Sazon seasoning, stir, and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon cumin.
Add 4 cups white rice, un-rinsed, directly to pot. Mix.
Cook about 3-5 minutes until the rice gets a little opaque.
Add 1 quart chicken stock and 2 cups water. (You can use chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water. Any is fine. There is enough flavoring from the other items that any liquid will work.)
Stir the rice once and leave alone for 10-15 minutes. If you have fresh cilantro, pinch the leaves off 3-4 sprigs and drop on top. The liquid has to cook into the rice as well as evaporate.
When the liquid gets low – so that you cannot see the liquid but it is still down there, stir once more. Then turn down heat to a slow simmer and leave it alone. No stirring. The rice is usually done in another 20-25 minutes.
We had a great time at Irma’s house learning these incredibly practical and delicious recipes. Irma also roasted a chicken and made a salad so our meal was complete. Thank you, Irma!