Comfort. That’s what food is to me. And something that gets me all comforty is a classic Puerto Rican dish called arroz con habichuelas. When Satan Mom actually cared about cooking, she did this dish pretty well. Nowadays it’s like she made a pot of red mortar and I don’t eat it if she cooks it. Rice and beans. There are lots and lots of variations of this dish around the Caribbean and southern US… it’s red beans and rice. And it’s delicious.
I do arroz con habichuelas (abby-chewellas) Johanesen style. I took my mom’s recipe and tweaked it a bit. It’s a simple recipe that is really flavourful. Because there is a stark lack of Goya products out here in Oregon, I have no adobo or sofrito or other spices to help me out, so I improvise a little.
You start with the triumvirate of yumminess. A few cloves of garlic, one medium yellow onion and green pepper. I also *should* have been soaking the kidney beans (preferably the light ones, not the dark ones)… Unfortunately I hadn’t soaked them the night before, so I had to use dark kidney beans from a can… but yes, soak your beans and poke your beans..heh heh. Oh, that reminds me of a cute little story told to me by a curmudgeony gentleman known as ‘the Hoff’. We were eating fresh lima beans from his garden, and he told me that I should poke a hole in each bean to let it off gas before I eat it so it would give me gas problems later. LOL! I can’t eat beans now without thinking of the Hoff telling me to poke my beans!
Anyway, I digress.. I chop up the triumvirate. Chippety Chop. This is a recipe of experimentation, I don’t put specific quantities in there, and every time I make it, it’s a little different. So feel free to be bold.
Grab half of a block of salt pork. Some people say you can substitute bacon for salt-pork, but oddly, bacon is too salty! So find a little block of salt pork and chop it in half, and then cut it up into little cubes and toss them into a bit of hot oil in your cooking pot, and fry them into crispins. I love crispins. This adds a nice flavour to the beans that only a protein can do. You vegetarians can figure out how to get that Umami taste in there.
Once the crispins are nice and crispy, and there’s a lovely browned layer on the bottom of the pan of crispin essence (teehee) toss in the triumvirate and fry them all up together. I cook hot, I like to cook on high-heat… So I move quickly. Once I’ve done that, I huck in a little basil, coriander, a smidge of cumin and a little basil, a touch of salt and let these flavours get better acquainted with one another. Don’t burn the ingredients, and don’t cook on a low heat so the vegetables just sweat out into a soup.
Once the aromatics start to fill your kitchen, it’s time to pour in the beans. I used two cans, I could have used three easily enough… but that’s all I had. See how colourful that is? I wish you could smell it firsthand… it’s so fragrant and appetizing. Mmm… comfort. The beans and the liquid that comes with them deglazes all that crispin essence from the bottom of the pot and mixes that concentrated goodness into the beans.
While these guys get to know one another, I open up a big can of pureed tomatoes and a small can of diced tomatoes. Into the pot they go. I let them simmer up and then turn the heat down low. This should simmer and reduce.
I also put on a pot of brown rice since brown rice takes a long time to cook. For the meat (because I am married to a man who requires his carnivorous tendencies sated) I picked out a small pork shoulder roast at New Seasons.
I made a dry rub for it. I put into a little bowl about a teaspoon of the following spices each: white pepper (and pork are friends), basil, thyme, garlic powder, salt. I mixed it up with my hand and rubbed it all over the pork shoulder. I popped it into the oven at 375 on a little rack over a drip pan. White pepper sometimes smells like feet at first… but trust me, it’s like heaven on pork.
Anyway… the house filled up with the aroma of comfort food, and soon enough I’d served up a heaping plate of pig-out. The beans will be even better tomorrow.
There you go. My Puerto-Rican bastardized beans & rice. Enjoy.