- 1 1/2 cups (or so) dried red beans
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2-3 scallions/green onions (just the white/light green part, not the green tips)
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- 5-6 whole cloves
1 hot pepper
1 can of coconut milk (14 oz) or a whole coconut (can is easier, taste is the same)
- white long grain rice – about 2 1/2 cups (about 1/2 cup uncooked rice per person)
Sort through rice. Remove discolored pieces, unshelled rice, and anything that’s not rice. (Sometimes we get pebbles and sticks in the rice here.) You are probably going to want 1/2 – 3/4 cup of uncooked rice for each person. Set aside. Don’t wash it yet (wait until you put the water to boil).If you want to go the easy way, you will get the coconut milk in the can (not coconut water or cream of coconut). Don’t get the “light” or “lite” versions of the coconut milk either. If you want to go true Haitian, buy a whole coconut. Prep of whole coconut: Whack it on a rock outside to break it open. No need to save the coconut water inside for this recipe. Break the coconut into pieces on the rock and slowly work the white part of the coconut away from the shell with a knife or spoon. This takes time and I’ve hurt myself several times doing this, so be careful. The easiest thing is to put the white coconut in a blender with some water, but you can shred it with a slicer/shredder – the smaller holes the better. If you shred, watch your fingers when the pieces get small. Put the shredded coconut in a bowl. Add water to cover. Spend about 4-5 minutes squeezing the coconut in the water. You will notice the water getting cloudier with a higher concentration of milk. Strain in a small pore strainer or with a cheesecloth. Squeeze out all of the milk from the coconut. Discard the coconut and set the milk aside. Prep on the coconut can take 45 minutes with all the breaking, separating and shredding and it common to hurt yourself on this when beginning. I would go for the canned stuff. The coconut milk is optional, but makes it taste richer. (If you don’t have coconut milk, you could add 2-3 tablespoons of butter when you add the bean water.)
Place large pot on medium heat. Pour in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot (2-4 tablespoons). Heat. Put in crushed garlic and leeks. Fry for 2-4 minutes. Do not brown them – it will throw of the color of the whole dish.
Add the beans and turn over the beans until they are covered with the oil. Fry for 5-8 minutes. Again, don’t brown/burn the beans. They will turn darker, but you don’t want to brown/burn them. You can stir occasionally, but not too much – it will break the beans apart and you want to leave them as whole as possible.
While this is cooking, you need to measure the liquids. When adding the amount of liquid, you have to leave enough room for the rice to cook and swell so make sure the pot is big enough or the rice will spill out while cooking. It is usually two cups of water to one cup of rice, but it depends on the type of rice and if you like the rice soft or firm. So if you want to cook 2 cups of rice, you will need around 4 cups of liquid. I tend to go on the high side with the liquid so the rice isn’t too firm, so sometimes I use more. So measure out the coconut milk first because it contributes more to the dish that the bean water….and after all of that work you don’t want to waste a drop of that stuff. Then add bean water until you have 4 cups or so. If you have a lot, you won’t have to use all of it. If you don’t have enough, you’ll have to add water to make it reach your desired amount. Once the color of the beans slightly changes and it starts smelling good, add the coconut milk (gives it a richer taste) and reserved bean water (gives it a good color) to the pot.
Crush up the bouillon cubes completely. Add to pot and stir gently. Some people put the bouillon in with the garlic, but I tend to think it browns it too much and ruins the color. Now comes the tricky part of adding salt. This is going to make or break your dish. Add it in small amounts – stirring in and tasting each time. This is going to give you a clue as to how the rice will taste. Do not over salt as it will ruin it. So salt to taste, but don’t overdo it. If you are in Haiti and can buy the spices whole, tie them up and add them to the pot. If you don’t have these, you could add some parsley or Italian seasonings, but it’s not the same as using the whole pieces. Take the hot pepper and poke the smaller end of the whole clove into it. Poke 5-6 cloves in and drop it in the water. Increase heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.
As the water is boiling, wash the rice. This gets rid of the starchy powder on it. Put the rice in a big bowl and put it in the sink to run water over it. Turn over the rice with your hand several times (15-20 times). The water should become cloudy. Strain completely and discard all of the water. Don’t let the rice sit in the water for more than 2-3 minutes.
Once the water is boiling, you need to add the rice, but just don’t add it in any old way. Add the rice by handfuls in the middle of the pot of boiling water. Keep adding until the rice mounds up in the middle of the pot. Don’t just pour it from the bowl because that will introduce cold starchy water to the pot. You don’t want any of the rice rinse water going in. When the top of the rice mound is just barely out of the water, stop adding the rice. This is the proportion of rice to water will give you the best rice texture/consistency. The water:rice ratio is a bit tricky, but it gets easier with practice. Stir once only, cover, bring to boil. Once it comes to a boil, you can uncover the pot. Don’t stir much anymore after you pour in the rice. If/when you need to stir, take the spoon through once only and let it come to a good boil before you stir again.
Once the water level is down to where you can see the rice and hardly any water, pour in a couple of tablespoons of oil around the edges of the pot. This will give you “graten” on the bottom of the pan. This is the rice that is a bit fried, darkened, and crispy. Once you add the oil, turn the heat down to low and cover for 5-10 more minutes. Uncover for as little time as possible and fluff it a bit by sticking the spoon in the little and lifting or barely turning over. Do not stir. Cover again and do not take the cover off for about 15 minutes. Do not stir it at all during this time. After about 15 minutes, take off the lid and look to see if the rice done (soft and kind of broken open). If not done, cover and continue to cook, checking every 5 minutes or so until done. Remove hot pepper/cloves & tied spices before serving.
Let us know how this recipe worked for you and any others that you would like to know.