I think I’ve mentioned previously my devoted love for rice and beans, so it should be no surprise that for my birthday last week I opted to make myself one of my favorite versions of rice and beans, a recipe I found rather fortuitously one evening several years ago. You see, my husband and I, in a post Game of Thrones and Sherlock slump, were looking for a show to watch and happened upon a British comedy-drama called Death in Paradise: awkward, be-suited British man descends upon beautiful tropical island where a surprising amount of murders keep happening amidst the gorgeous scenery. Ignoring the problematic colonial undertones, count me in (really, why do we always need a white, male British detective to help solve the murders of the islanders when there’s a perfectly smart, local, female detective literally sitting right there?). I like staring at rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes and beaches while main characters dine and drink at cozy seaside restaurants.
So, one evening after a long day, Brian and I entered into our Caribbean fantasy trance and then got hungry and wished we had something that would mimic the feeling and flavors of the show we were watching. A quick google search landed me on this recipe from Immaculate Bites. I followed it as exactly as possible given what ingredients I had on hand, and fell in love. Mmmmmm rice and beans. I could eat bowl-fulls of it for three meals a day (and in fact, adding a fried egg on top, it does make a dandy breakfast; or folding it in to a tortilla makes it lunch). I’ve tweaked it slightly since then, but mainly still just happily follow the original recipe.
On another day a few years ago, Brian and I were also watching a movie most of you are probably familiar with. Those of us in love with John Favreau’s beautiful Mandolorian mind (and Elf, I mean, honestly, we owe the man so much), would have watched it simply because he was in it: the movie Chef. The story of how an over-worked restaurant chef finds his passion again cooking the food of his childhood and culture and re-invigorates the relationships in his life. Yes. Sign me up. (You can find John Favreau on Netflix cooking a few gems from this movie in the series The Chef Show).
In the movie, his signature dish is a Cuban sandwich made with this delightful looking pork. I googled around and found this recipe from Recipe Tin Eats, again trying to do it justice while also adding my own ingredient and time constraints. The result was delicious on a Cuban sandwich, just like in the movie, but then, I also wondered, what would make this even better? You know the answer: rice and beans. The answer is always rice and beans.
Combining the two now equals one of our family’s most favorite meals. Enjoy!
Caribbean Rice and Beans
Yield: 6-8 servings
1/4 C olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet onion, diced
1 T Creole spice (recipe below)
2 C basmati rice
1 t dried thyme
1 13 ounce can coconut milk
1 15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed*
2 bay leaves
sea salt and fresh pepper (to taste, but don’t be stingy)
2 C water
1-2 whole chili peppers (use 1 if using a hotter and more flavorful chili, use 2 if using a medium spice)**
1 1/2 T onion powder
1 1/2 T garlic powder
2 1/2 t black pepper
2 1/2 t white pepper
3 T paprika
1/2 – 1 t cayenne pepper
2 1/2 t oregano
1 1/2 t dried parsley
2 1/2 t dried thyme
2 1/2 t dried basil
*I’ve occasionally added 2 cans of red kidney beans, especially if I’m serving this as a main dish.
**The Immaculate Bites original recipe calls for a Scotch Bonnet pepper, which I have a hard time finding. I often have Hungarian hot wax or jalapeno on hand, in which case I use 2.
In a wide skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and whole pepper(s) and saute until onions have softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper, stirring, sauteing until fragrant–about 30 seconds. Add the rice and creole spice and cook 1-2 minutes more, stirring and coating the rice in all that goodness. Then add the beans, a little more salt and pepper, and stir in the can of coconut milk. Add the water and stir, making sure the coconut milk has dispersed. Then cover, let the rice come to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-23 minutes, until rice is done and all liquid has evaporated. As long as I have the heat low enough, I don’t experience issues with the coconut milk making the rice stick, but if your burners run hot, you might want to stir halfway through. Remove the bay leaves before serving. I like to leave the whole peppers in for storing leftovers, but don’t serve them. Unless, of course, you have *that person* in your family who wants to eat whole chili peppers. I won’t stand in their way of chili pepper happiness.
Yield: 8-10 servings
1 C cilantro
1 T citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime, or a mixture–in the movie it’s orange)
3/4 C orange, passion fruit, mango, or guava juice (in the movie it’s orange)
1/2 C lime juice
1/4 C mint leaves
8 cloves garlic
2 t ground oregano
2 t ground cumin
2 T honey
1 t sea salt
1 t black pepper
4-5 pounds pork shoulder or butt
Are you ready for how easy this is? In pre-COVID-19 days, I could put this together before I left for work and come home to deliciousness.
In a blender or food processor, add all the ingredients but the pork butt. Blend or process until thoroughly combined. Cut the pork butt into halves, or whatever shape will fit or crock pot or instant pot (or even dutch oven). I’ve even cut the pork into halves and frozen the other half of the butt in half the sauce for subsequent cookings. Put the pork butt into your preferred slow cooker, pour the sauce over the top, and cook 8 hours.
After slow cooking, I like to turn the saute function on and reduce the sauce down. Alternatively, you can also do this on the stovetop. It concentrates all that flavor even more. Reduce it until there’s just a little left, which is good for storing leftovers and reheating to keep its moisture. This goes on top of the yummy rice and beans. It can also go on a Cuban sandwich, or be folded into any kind of Latin-inspired dish featuring a tortilla you can imagine, which makes using-up leftovers a dream. Two or even three meals out of one cooking? Yes, please!
If you’re in more of a hurry, and have an instant pot, you can use manual pressure, but it works best if the meat is totally submerged. If you have more meat than sauce, divide the pressure times in half and flip it over after the first one. Takes a little longer this way, but still faster than the slow-cooked method (I speak from trial and error after wondering why in the world my meat would not get as tender as I wanted after two cycles in the IP. I finally realized I should flip it over and voila). Cook on manual pressure for 40-50 minutes, or until tender enough that it will shred it with a fork.