Monday, November 17, 2008

Trip To Puerto Rico: Rice and Beans

This (well actually last) week, the bloggers of My Kitchen My World visited Puerto Rico.  Yes I know, not quite a country, but also only a US Territory, and in my mind (and I picked this week) deserved of separate culinary recognition.  
I've never been to Puerto Rico myself, but I knew exactly what I wanted to make: my stepmother's rice and beans.  She is from Puerto Rico and she is a mean cook.  This is my third attempt at her bean recipe and it tastes right, but it still doesn't have the awesome sauce that she gets in her beans - mine are too watery and require hours of cooking down on the stove to thicken them.  She knows exactly the right amount of water for her pressure cooker - I have to practice and find out that magic amount for mine. 

The best thing about the recipe (besides the fact that the beans are great for days) is the addition of squash at the end - it complements the beans fantastically and is a nice way to mix up the meal.

Priscilla's Puerto Rican Beans

This recipe can be used for pinto/pink, kidney, or white beans. Recipe is done with 4 quart pressure cooker. (Cooking without pressure cooker requires that the beans be soaked in water over night and then cooked over moderate heat for approximately 1.5-2 hours. Pressure cooker is better!)

1lb bag of dry beans
1 med onion, chopped finely
5-6 cloves garlic chopped or mashed on mortar
3Tbs olive oil
5-6 sliced pieces of salt pork, ¼ inch thick
1 chunky piece of pancetta or cooking ham (optional)
2 large cooking spoonfuls of tomato sauce
1/2 tps of saffron powder or strands
10 chunky pieces (1.5-2 inches) of banana squash or pumpkin
Fresh Herbs and Condiments (quantity at your liking depending how seasoned you like your beans):
1 green bell pepper, cut in pieces
2Tbs of Spanish Alcaparrado (buy Goya Manzanilla Olives, Pimentos & Capers)
7-10 cilantro leaves (cut off bottom stems)
3 Oregano stems, finely cut
2 Sage leaves, finely cut
(Add herbs that you prefer also)

Place beans in pressure cooker,disgarding any bad beans or stones. Wash beans in cool water, then fill pc to about 3/4 with water. Place pc over high heat and add onions, garlic and pancetta. In small pan, add olive oil. When olive oil is moderately hot, add salt pork and cook until pork is nicely browned. Add salt pork with oil into pc; pour little water over pan and add to pc.

Close pressure cooker tightly with lid. Put pc on high setting and cook at moderate to low heat. Cooking time is approximately 25 minutes for pink beans; 30 minutes for kidney beans; and 8 minutes for small white beans. (Depending on the pressure cooker you have, each has different settings. For beans you want to cook at maximum pressure. Once the pc is cooking, the heat should be lowered. Never cook beans at high heat.) After the cooking time, bring pc over to sink and, with lid closed, let cold water run on lid to gradually lower pressure and cool the pot. Open the pot and taste the beans; they should taste “al dente”, not too hard and not too soft. Disgard the pieces of salt pork and pancetta.

Place pc back on stove over moderate heat. Disgard any fat that will start to rise to the top (this is from the salt pork and pancetta). Add fresh herbs, alcaparrado, saffron, tomato sauce, and salt to taste. Cook for about 10 minutes so beans absorb the taste of the herbs. Afterwards, remove the cilantro leaves from the pot. Add the banana or pumkin pieces and cook until tender. (Squash will thicken the bean sauce.) Beans are ready; serve while hot….By the way, cooked beans are great the day or couple of days after…Just reheat over low heat and add a little water.

Note: If the beans are too hard, you probably didn’t give them enough heat, or the pressure setting was not high enough. In this case, close the lid, put pack on top of stove, and cook under high pressure for an additional ten minutes or so…If the beans are too soft, you probably cooked them over too high heat. In this case, throw the beans away and go out for dinner…no one likes mushy beans…


Elra said...

This rice and bean sounds really delicious. I am sure that Priscilla is very proud of you.
With the help of pressure cooker, this doesn't sound too daunting to achieve a good result (hopefully)

Looking forward for your Iranian dish!

Anonymous said...

Hi L, this is your stepmother, Priscilla. i just read your write-up on my rice and bean receipe. Thank you for trying to make me famous...Your beans look great. If you're worried that your beans are coming out too watery, I would suggest 1/2 hour before serving the beans (beans are stilll cooking), you add the squash. This will help the sauce get thicker. Also, you can mash some squash in a cup, add some of the bean sauce, let it thicken, then add it to the pot. Next time you're here, let's cook it together...