Puerto Rican Habichuelas
Reprinted with permission from Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook by Illyanna Maisonet copyright ©2022. Puerto Rico location photographs by Erika P. Rodriguez. California location and food photographs copyright © 2022 by Dan Liberti. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Many people use canned beans for a shortcut. I rarely do, but I’m not against it. If you decide to use canned beans, warm them and their liquid in a pot to start.
- 1 pound dried pinto, peruano, yellow eye, or kidney beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can pinto or kidney beans
- Achiote oil for sautéing
- 1 large white or yellow onion, coarsely diced
- 8 garlic cloves, coarsely diced
- 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into medium dice
- 1 to 2 cups sofrito
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon sazón
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup water
Spread out the beans on a baking sheet and pick out any rocks and impurities. Place the beans in a large pot and add water to cover by 3 inches.
Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn the heat to low and let simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 4 hours (see Note, page 63). Check the beans and stir them every 30 minutes, adding more water to cover as needed. The pot should always have 2 to 3 inches of liquid in it so the beans don’t burn.
In a separate large pot, combine the achiote oil and onion, place over medium heat, and sauté for 2 to 4 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the potato and continue to sauté for 5 to 7 minutes. Then add the sofrito, tomato sauce, sazón, bay leaves; season with salt and pepper; and mix to combine. Add the beans and their cooking liquid and 1 cup water, then cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potato has softened.
Ladle the beans into bowls and serve immediately.
Makes 2 cups
- 2 cups manteca, canola oil, or vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup achiote seeds
In a small saucepan over high heat, melt the manteca. Set a mesh sieve over a bowl and place near the stove. As soon as the manteca has melted, carefully add the achiote seeds; they will sizzle. Heat the seeds for 30 seconds to 1 minute, extracting as much of their color and flavor as you can. Never take your eyes off them—they will burn in a blink! When the oil has reached the desired redness, pour it and the seeds through the sieve. Trash the seeds.
If you’re using manteca, the achiote oil needs to be used right away. If you’re using canola or vegetable oil, pour the cooled achiote oil into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store at room temperature for up to 1 year.
Makes 2 cups
- 2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 green bell pepper, quartered
- 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
In a blender, process the tomatoes until finely chopped. Add the onion and garlic and process until finely chopped and incorporated. Add the bell pepper, cilantro, and culantro and process until the mixture is well combined and mostly smooth. You can use the sofrito immediately, cover it and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 day, or pour it into an ice-cube tray and freeze for up to 6 months.
About Illyanna Maisonet:
Illyanna Maisonet was the United States’ first Puerto Rican food columnist for a major newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, and has hosted sold out pop-up dinners across the San Francisco Bay Area. An IACP award winner for narrative food writing, she has collaborated with José Andrés on Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story wrap party, contributed recipes to Rancho Gordo, authored a crowdfunded cookbooklet, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, Saveur, Food & Wine, Lucky Peach, Food52, Eater SF, and more.