As a boy I remember coming home and smelling the most delightful aroma as soon as I opened the door. I knew Grandma was over and she was cooking her famous “rice and beans”. This was Puerto Rican comfort food at its finest, and my family and I would gorge ourselves until our bellies hurt. Rice and beans was considered “peasant food” because it was and still is relatively inexpensive. But like so many ethnic foods, they are becoming fashionable and sought after by the broader market.
This meal consisted of red kidney beans in a tomato sauce and rice. If Grandma went all out (which was usually the case), instead of making simple white rice, she would make this yellow rice and pork recipe. It’s one of those meals that just makes me crazy when I eat it. I can’t help myself. I just keep eating and eating long past being full. And now…I’m going to share the recipe with you. You were warned.
The type of rice you use is a somewhat controversial subject in my family. My sister Pam is a purist and insists on using the rice that Grandma used: Carolina white rice. I don’t like that fluffy, sticky variety and prefer the tighter, firmer substance of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain Original rice which is what our mother preferred. Also, note that I use 1:1 ratio of water to rice, and not the 2:1 ratio used in the rice directions. You might have to use 2:1 for fluffy rice like Carolina or generic brands. You won’t go wrong if you follow the directions on your rice box…it just won’t be as good as Dad’s 😎
This is not a difficult recipe, but there are a lot of steps. I will try to break it down as simply as possible.
- 1 green pepper – diced
- 1 medium onion – diced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp oregano
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 1/4 Tsp black ground pepper
- 4 cups of white rice (Uncle Ben’s Long Grain Original)
- 4 cups of water (I use 1:1 and not the typical 2:1 ratio)
- 2 Tbsp capers and/or 1 cup Goya Gandules green pigeon peas
- 2 Tbsp Whole Annatto seeds
- Vegetable oil
- 1 lb. Country Style pork ribs – boned, trimmed of fat, and cut into cubes (pork chops will work too)
- Sauté diced peppers and onions in 6-8 quart covered pot with 2 Tbsp oil until soft and translucent. Remove from pot and set aside.
- While vegetables are being sautéed, take garlic cloves and 1 tsp of salt and mash them with a mortar and pestle until a paste is created. Add 1 Tbsp of Oregano and mash together. Add 2 Tbsp of cider vinegar and mix together. Set mortar and pestle with garlic mixture aside until later.
- Sauté pork cubes in 2 Tbsp oil until brown and pan is caramelized (meat leaves a brown residue like caramel. Don’t let it get blackened!)
- While pork is browning, take 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and 2 Tbsp of whole annatto seeds and place in a small non-stick frying pan or small pot. Heat until the seeds just start to sizzle and then remove from heat and let sit until a later step.
- Measure out 4 cups of rice and set aside in a bowl.
- When the pork is done sautéing, add the garlic mixture in the mortar and pestle into the pan with the pork and stir around letting the garlic-oregano-vinegar mixture to cook slightly and pickup the caramelized meat residue. Right after this point, quickly add the four cups of rice and stir in the pot to mix in the meat (30 seconds). Now take the pot with the Annatto oil and using a small strainer, pour the oil into the rice. Mix the rice until the oil stains all the rice evenly. Let the rice remain on a medium heat and cook a bit in the oil (with NO water at this point). This will probably take about a minute or two. Keep stirring the rice so it doesn’t burn. After this, pour four cups of water into the scorching hot pot and mix around. Add capers and/or pigeon peas and mix. Add sautéed green pepper and onions and mix. Add 1/4 tsp. black pepper and salt to taste. Bring water to a boil. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to the lowest setting for 20 minutes. DO NOT take the lid off to stir. Just let it cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes remove from the heat, stir the pot to mix thoroughly and serve with Red Kidney beans (recipe to come).
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