When I try something for the first time and really love it, I know that I'm going to attempt to make the dish from scratch in the next few days. This has happened to me with cakes, rice, meat and vegetable dishes.
With so many tools out there for us fellow foodies to use, there's a plethora of resources for us to find inspiration after the first bite. My favorite of them all? Yummly.com.
Anyway, I especially found this magical website useful when I tried to make a dish last weekend: Puerto Rican red beans. I originally tried these at my best friend's house a while ago when her mom made the dish (the family is from Puerto Rico). I instantly fell in love with the flavorful beans and the complexity of the dish as a whole.
I asked my friend's mom for the recipe but wasn't able to write it down at the time. Luckily, living in Miami will allow you to meet lots of Puerto Ricans! I asked a co-worker who's Puerto Rican for the recipe and, while I didn't put it down on paper, I took note of the key ingredients: sofrito and recaito from Goya and cooking ham.
Now, the original dish I tried at my friend's house used butternut squash, homemade sofrito (usually a mix of garlic, onions, peppers and tomatoes)and no cooking ham. But I decided to mash up these two recipes and make my own version.
I searched "Puerto Rican red beans" on Yummly and on Google and found a ton of variations until the point that I tired myself out looking for the perfect recipe. Although both search engines really helped me decide what I wanted to and didn't want to use in my dish, I decided to fuse my friend's mom's recipe, my co-worker's recipe, the variations I saw online and a little of my own twist.
The beans turned out exquisite! While not exactly how I tried them at my friend's house, they were very close to the original flavor but unique enough that I was extremely proud of my creation. I even gave some to try to my friend's mom and my co-worker and they both gave me a seal of approval!
While I don't have the exact recipe that I made last weekend, here is a list of ingredients and some rough instructions for you to follow, if you want to try this absolutely delicious dish! I mean, come on, why wouldn't you want to try these?!
- 1 package of red beans, soaked overnight and drained (it is very important to soak these overnight! Don't worry if they shrivel up, break in halves or look as though their shell is breaking- they'll be perfect in the morning)
- 2 tablespoons of Goya Recaito (if you don't have, you can use plenty of cilantro, about 1/4 cup green pepper and 1/4 cup onion)
- 2 tablespoons of Goya Sofrito (if you don't have, you can use 1/4 cup onion, 1/4 cup red pepper, 1 garlic and 1/2 cup pureed or chopped tomatoes)
- 1 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (I use the Pomi brand)
- 1 butternut squash, diced into one-inch cubes
- 5 strips turkey bacon (this was my substitute for cooking ham but you can use any bacon or deli meat product you have)
- 1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, minced
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup green pepper
- 2 cups of chicken broth, plus more just in case your beans aren't completely covered (see cooking instructions below)
- 1 1/4 cup of water
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- pinch* turmeric
- pinch* curry
- pinch* cumin
- pinch* garlic powder
- pinch* onion powder
- pinch* cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper, to taste
*= I say "pinch" because I'm not quite sure how much I used of these but I know it wasn't too much, maybe a teaspoon or so. In any case, use as much or as little as you like... Be unique!
- In a deep pot, sauté the onions, garlic, turkey bacon, green pepper, sofrito and recaito with the olive oil.
- When the onions are translucent and the rest of the ingredients are well incorporated, add the butternut squash into the pot and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Next, add the drained and soaked beans in the pot. Also add the chopped tomatoes, the chicken stock and the water. If the beans are not completely covered, add more chicken stock or water (preferably stock to give the dish more flavor)
- Add the spices and salt and pepper to the pot and mix to distribute all the flavors evenly.
- Let the pot come to a boil uncovered. When this happens, lower the temperature to a constant simmer and cover the pot.
- Every few minutes, make sure to stir the pot. This will make the dish thicker as the starches from the beans and butternut squash will be released.
- Cooking time will range from an hour to an hour and a half. Just keep checking the beans and, once a fork is able to spear them easily, your beans are done.
- Serve the beans with white rice. And hey, a breaded chicken cutlet never hurt anyone, right? Cook some of those, too, for a yummy addition to this meal!
Let me know if you tried these! How did they come out?! What's that one dish that you love so much but haven't gotten around to cooking it for yourself? Tell me, I want to know!