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Side Dish

Everyone will want to ‘congri’gate around your table for this dish

Congri
Congri is a beans and rice dish from Cuba. Some argue that traditional congri can’t be made with black beans, but this mixture was good enough that you probably won’t care.

An article by Eliana Rivero goes into great detail about some of the cultural dishes of Cuba, including a dish I decided to try for this week’s column, congri.

According to Rivero, “The name comes from the Creole French words congo and ris (beans and rice) to produce what today is widely consumed by Cubans in the diaspora (and in their Louisiana variation, Cajun red beans and rice).”

Except, after reading Rivero’s article, I discovered that there’s a lot of back and forth amongst Cubans about what actually constitutes congri. Some people, like her, claim it must be made with red beans, and others claim it can be made with black.

So, I’m putting it out there now that while what I made—a delicious black beans and rice dish—may not be considered congri by all Cubans, what I can promise is that it’s absolutely worth a try.

This comes from the website “Food52.” You can find the original post and a great personal story about the dish by Taryn Pire at https://food52.com/recipes/83081-congri-cuban-black-beans-and-rice. I doubled the seasonings in my version.

Congri
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Congri

Congri is a beans and rice dish from Cuba. Some argue that traditional congri can't be made with black beans, but this mixture was good enough that you probably won't care.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Keyword adobo, bay leaves, black beans, chorizo, congri, cumin, garlic, green bell pepper, white rice, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large green bell peppers diced
  • 1 medium yellow union diced
  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 9 to 12 ounces chorizo
  • 4 cups white rice
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons adobo seasoning
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • The day before you cook your beans, rinse them well. Add them to a stock pot and add water until there’s about one inch covering them. Bring the pot to a boil, then remove them from heat, place a lid on the pot, and let them sit undisturbed until the next day.
  • When you’re ready to cook the beans, add more water to the pot—again, to about one inch covering them. Add the bay leaves and bring the pot to a boil. Turn the heat to a simmer and place the lid on the pot. (They’ll need to cook for 45 to 70 minutes.) Check the beans every 15 minutes or so to make sure there is still plenty of water in the pot. Add more, if necessary.
  • While the beans cook, heat the olive oil in another large stock pot over medium heat. Saute the peppers and onions until they are cooked through. Add the chorizo, chopping it up as it cooks. When the chorizo is nearly cooked through, add the garlic and uncooked rice. Stir well.
  • Add in the cumin and adobo, stir well, and then remove the mixture from the heat until the beans are cooked through. (To test the beans, fish one out, let it cool, and try it. You want it to be easy to bite without being complete mush.)
  • When the beans are done, remove them from the heat. Drain the beans, but reserve six cups of the bean broth (if there isn’t enough, add water until you get six cups). Discard the bay leaves. Add the bean broth and beans to the pot with the rice.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, put the burner on low, and place a lid on the pot. Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Stir the mixture well. If the mixture is soupy, let it cook a bit longer, with the lid off, to evaporate the liquid to your desired level. Generally, congri is a drier dish, with little to no liquid. Add salt to taste and serve.

This was flavorful and super delicious. It makes a ton, too. I made a batch and a half and couldn’t even fit all of it into my large crockpot for a group meal we had.

It’s perfect as a side dish, especially with something that has some sauce with it—like enchiladas or chili con carne. You can also eat it alone, although I’d think it would be best with a little salsa added to the mix.

I may not have actually accomplished historically accurate congri, but I did manage to create a delicious dish with plenty of leftovers for us to enjoy for the rest of the week, so I’m not going to worry too much about labels.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 11, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish Side Dish

Yummy Puerto Rican food will help you have a ‘rice’ day

Puerto Rican rice and beans are full of rich flavors, and while they may use some ingredients not standard in a stereotypical Kansas kitchen, they are definitely worth a try.

Often, I launch this column by telling you a story that ties into whatever the week’s recipe is going to be. This week, however, I wanted to talk ingredients, because if you’re like me, this recipe is going to be a bit of a scavenger hunt through your local grocery store. 

My sister-in-law makes amazing Puerto Rican dishes for us when she comes to visit, and after eyeballing this recipe for Puerto Rican rice and beans, I decided I had to take the plunge.

The first ingredient that might stump some but is actually a staple in my pantry is Sazon Culantro y Achiote packets. Sazon is the brand, and the “Culantro y Achiote” means coriander and annatto in Spanish. I use a packet in with my taco seasoning regularly, so if you buy some for this recipe, I highly recommend using the remaining packets for that.

The next is adobo seasoning, which is just a seasoning mix that generally has a mix of spices from black pepper and paprika to oregano and onion powder. If you can’t find it, try looking for a homemade recipe online. It would be pretty simple to replicate.

One that did leave me scratching my head is pigeon peas. I was only able to find them at a larger grocery store in the “Hispanic Foods” section. They are a legume and are definitely more bean-like than green-pea-like. If you can’t find them, substitute a can of black-eyed peas instead.

The final ingredient that might be different for some is basmati white rice. It’s more expensive than traditional white rice, but it cooks differently, so substituting one for the other would likely mess up cooking times and liquid ratios. I have another recipe I’ll share with you soon that uses basmati rice, so if you’re worried about having a bag of it sitting in your pantry gathering dust, stay tuned.

So, now that we’ve covered the bases, it’s time to jump into this delicious dish that, honestly, I wish I would have doubled. It was great.

I found this recipe on the blog “Ambitious Kitchen.” You can find the original post at https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/video-moms-authentic-puerto-rican-rice-and-beans/. I changed the ingredients just a bit but also tried to clarify the directions in my version below.

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Puerto Rican Rice and Beans

Puerto Rican rice and beans are full of rich flavors, and while they may use some ingredients not standard in a stereotypical Kansas kitchen, they are definitely worth a try.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Puerto Rican
Keyword adobo, basmati rice, cilantro, garlic, green bell pepper, onions, pigeon peas, pinto beans, tomato sauce

Ingredients

Beans Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 8 cups vegetarian broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro minced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce divided
  • 2 packets Sazon Culantro y Achiote
  • salt to taste

Rice Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • Reserved tomato sauce about 1/2 cup
  • 2 packets Sazon Culantro y Achiote
  • 1/4 teaspoon adobo seasoning
  • 15 ounces pigeon peas undrained
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups basmati white rice
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • The night before you make this (or about eight hours before), combine the dried beans, vegetable broth and bay leaves in a Dutch oven with a lid. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove the pot from the heat, place the lid on top, and let the beans soak at least eight hours.
  • When you’re ready to start cooking, bring the beans back to a boil and then reduce to a low boil, leaving the lid on the pot. You’ll let them simmer for one to two hours or until they are tender. When they are tender, remove the bay leaves but do not drain the liquid.
  • While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in the onion and green pepper, sauteing until both are soft. Add in the garlic and cilantro and saute for a few minutes until the garlic just starts to brown. Add one cup of the tomato sauce and the Sazon packets, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture cook for a couple minutes. If the beans are not tender yet, remove the mixture from heat. If they are, go ahead and add it to the beans.
  • Once the tomato mixture is added to the beans, cook over medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • For the rice, while the beans simmer, in a medium-sized pot with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onion and green pepper, sauteing until both are soft. Add in the garlic and cilantro and saute for a few minutes until the garlic just starts to brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the rest of the tomato sauce, Sazon packets and adobo seasoning and let cook for about two minutes. Stir in the undrained pigeon peas and three cups of water, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the rice, place the lid on the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through.
  • Once the beans and rice are finished cooking, add salt if desired, and then serve the beans and rice together in a bowl. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if you want to.

This was amazing, and it reheated famously as leftovers. The flavor profile was great. We ended up pairing it with some smoked pork loin that Joey whipped up, and it was a fabulous meal.

Plus, I learned about some new ingredients and got a chance to explore my grocery store a little bit more. It’s always easier to be adventurous when adventure tastes this good.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 21, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

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