Make Yummy Habichuelas at Home with this Easy Recipe
Puerto Rican food comes from a mix of 3 cultures — Spanish, Taino Indian and African. Accordingly, many of the "staples" of Puerto Rican cooking have their roots in basic home-cooking, using many things that people had available on their farm (finca) or could obtain easily and cheaply. This food is healthy, yet inexpensive and hardy. It is old-fashioned, down-home, country cooking.
My favorite Puerto Rican dish is Arroz con Habichuelas, or rice and beans. The beans are actually a stew, with potatoes, squash, other veggies, some ham and, of course, beans. I eat this, served over rice, for a meal whenever I can find it.
Lots of people here in PR make Habichuelas, some are better than others (I know because I have tried a lot!). So it was only a matter of time that I was able to get a recipe that I loved. I got this recipe from a local woman (thanks SMS!) and it’s really easy and delicious. I will tell you I am a horrible cook, yet I gave it a try, and it came out great the first time! So if I can do it, so can you!
You may have to poke around in the ethnic aisle of your supermarket for some of the ingredients. This recipe will feed about 12 people as a side dish or 6 people as a main dish. Vegetarians can make this without the ham (and using vegetable stock instead of ham stock) and it still tastes great. I have adjusted the recipe for my preferences — since I like my habichuelas very thick, I "stew" it an hour or more. If you want a thinner stew, just don’t simmer it as long! Experiment a little with the recipe until it is "perfect" for you.
Habichuelas (Stewed Beans)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 4" x 6" piece of smoked ham (the pink salty stuff), cubed (if the piece you buy has a bone, drop in the bone to for flavor — remove before eating!).
- 1 cooking green pepper “Cubanelle” or “Italian frying peppers” (NOT hot), diced small (these are the long light-green ones, NOT Bell peppers)
- 1 large onion, diced small
- 4 cloves garlic, mashed
- 2 cans (use 16 oz cans) beans (pink/rosado, red or pinto) boiled in water and salt. I like pink beans (rosados) the best. The can label should say some kind of liquid with beans are in. Just be careful not to get the ones cooked in tomato sauce or "ready to eat".
- 2 ham or chicken broth bouillon cubes, diluted in 1 cup water (we’re able to find Calabaza y Jamón flavor)
- 1 cup tomato sauce, NOT paste
- ½ teaspoon dry oregano leaves
- 2 medium potatoes, cubed
- 1 4" x 6" piece of cooking pumpkin/squash/calabaza, cubed (with or without skin)
- Using a deep stock pot, heat the oil over a medium heat and sauté the ham, until it starts to get a light golden color on some of it. Add the garlic, stir in, add the diced green peppers and the onion. Stir frequently to avoid burning. This process should take 5 minutes. The onions will become translucent and it will begin to smell good!
- Add the beans with their liquid, the diluted broth, the tomato sauce, and the oregano. Stir to mix. Let it boil at medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the cubed potatoes and pumpkin. Stir. Lower the heat to Low — do not cover — and let it simmer until the potatoes and pumpkin are tender and the sauce thickens (about 45 to 60 minutes). If, when you add the potatoes and pumpkin there is not enough liquid, add water little by little until there is enough to cover everything. If the sauce does not thicken enough, simmer longer (or if you are in a hurry, mash 2 or 3 extra pieces of the potatoes or pumpkin and add to the pot).
- Correct the seasoning — You can add salt if needed, a little ground black pepper (if you like) and if it tastes a little acid, add ½ teaspoon of sugar.
Serve over white rice as a meal or side dish. Disfrute! Enjoy!
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