Haitian Red Beans and Rice (Diri et Pois Coles)
Rice and beans are ubiquitous throughout the Southwestern U.S., Mexico, Central and South America, well as the Caribbean and other parts of the world. The beans differ – black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, pigeon peas, etc., but the preparation is essentially the same. Cheap staples that provide healthy nutrition are combined with aromatics like garlic, onion, and pepper to make it flavorful. A small amount of meat, often smoked, used whenever possible or for special occasions contributes more flavor than nutrition. I’ve read many such recipes, and made lots of them. What struck me most when reading Haitian versions was that the proportion of beans to rice was so much smaller: even a protein source such as beans is a scarce enough commodity that it’s used sparingly. Most Haitian recipes call for two cups of rice to one cup of beans. I reduced it to one cup rice to one cup of beans, and the proportion of rice to beans was still much, much larger than any other I’ve ever made – but still plenty tasty. I also doubled the amount of meat, for its flavor.
- 2 c. dried kidney beans
- 1 c. chopped ham or bacon, optional
- 2 T. vegetable oil, bacon fat, or unhydrogenated lard (if not using the bacon)
- 1 1/2 c. chopped onion, not super-sweet
- ½ c. celery, chopped
- ¾ - 1 c. chopped bell pepper, green, red, yellow, or a combination
- 1 seeded and minced Scotch Bonnet pepper, or other hot pepper, or more or less, optional
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 2 c. rice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Drain the beans. In a large pot, cook the ham or bacon over medium heat until it’s slightly crisp and has rendered most of its fat. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add additional oil or fat if there’s not enough in the pot, and then add the onion, celery, peppers, and garlic. Cover the pan, and let the vegetables “sweat” for a few minutes until they are softened. Uncover the pan and continue to cook until the vegetables are lightly browned. Add two quarts of water and bring to a simmer, stirring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the beans, cover the pot, and cook until the beans are completely tender but not falling apart, about an hour.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir in a teaspoon of salt, and let stand a few minutes. There should be at least 1/12 – 2 inches of liquid on top of the beans; if not, add sufficient water. Return to the stove and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir the rice into the beans, cover the pot, and return to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the rice is completely done. Season with salt and pepper (it will need more salt) and let stand at least half an hour before serving.