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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amazingly Flavorful Haitian Rice and Beans

Haitian rice and beans or Riz National (diri ak pwa) is an absolutely magical dish.  Every time I make this dish for friends they go crazy over it!  I don't make it often, but among those I've made it for, it is undoubtedly one of my most popular dishes.  This dish is irresistible to picky eaters, dieters, even the anorexic--proven fact.   If you are struggling to get someone to eat, let this one be your go-to.  If you've never tried Haitian food, this is probably the best introductory dish--it's very Haitian food 101.

When I lived at the Spanish House in undergrad, I made this dish and the guys were practically fighting over it!  One of them was licking his fingers and everything!  Yes, it is just that good.  I don't know that I've tried a more flavorful rice than this one.  The smell of this dish is rich and divine.  I remember I used to have a Haitian neighbor in Miami who would cook with the kitchen window open, and the smell of that rice as I walked by in the evening was so intoxicating!  The cloves may sound odd, but it's really no different than the Jamaican addition of allspice (another sweet spice that Americans typically use in desserts) to their meats and rices.  It just provides some added depth and richness.

Before you start, bear in mind that you must leave the hot pepper whole.  It will depress and release its juices into the food during cooking, however, it is traditionally left whole for a reason.  If you chop an entire scotch bonnet or habanero for this dish, it will be far too spicy and even inedible.

- 1 cup of long grain white rice, washed and drained
- 1 can of red beans or 1 cup precooked beans and juice, strained with juice reserved
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon (or equivalent in chopped salt pork)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 pack of Sazon Goya Culantro y Achiote (found in Latin foods aisle in supermarket)
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 3 or 4 sprigs fresh parsley
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (whole with stem removed.  Do NOT chop.  It's entirely too spicy) (half a cherry pepper with seeds is a nice substitute)

- 2 TB butter + oil to sautee veggies in and for flavoring rice.

- 3 cups water and/or bean juice (from can or from freshly cooked beans)

- salt to taste (about 1 TB)
- pepper to taste

1. Fry bacon in a pan until crisp in a deep pan or medium pot.  Crumble or chop and set aside.

2 Sautee onions in the bacon pan with butter and oil, adding garlic in toward the end to avoid burning.

3. Stir in herbs and cloves and bacon.  Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4. Stir in dry seasonings and water, bean juice, and beans.

5. Bring all ingredients to a boil over medium heat.  Once boiling, stir in rice and add hot pepper.

6. Boil over medium heat, stirring continuously, until water is mostly evaporated.  At this point, cover and reduce to low heat.  Allow to simmer 20 minutes over low heat (do not remove cover).

7. Fluff and blend rice with a fork and serve, ideally with meat and fried green plantains (banane peze).

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