The cooking of Oriente, Cuba’s easternmost province, is often more highly seasoned than food in other parts of the country. Congrí is a term that is widely used in New Orleans and throughout the Caribbean. It is of African origin, and always refers to some combination of rice and beans. In Oriente, congrí means red beans and rice. The seasonings used to prepare the dish show the influence of the creole cooking of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
If using dried beans, rinse and soak them overnight in cold water to cover. The next day, add enough additional water to cover by 3 inches. Bring the soaking water to a boil and add the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook the beans at a bare simmer until tender, 1½ to 3 hours, depending on the dryness of the beans and the altitude at which you are cooking them. As they are cooking, check them occasionally, stir gently, and add more hot water, if necessary. When tender but still firm, season the beans with salt. Set the beans and their liquid aside. The beans may also be cooked in a pressure cooker. See the Glossary for instructions.
If using canned beans, drain them and set the beans and their liquid aside.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the chorizo and ham to the pot and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the meats with a slotted spoon and set them aside with the bacon. Pour off all but about
Meanwhile, put the garlic cloves through a press into a small bowl. Add the salt, cumin, oregano, and ground cinnamon, if using. Use a fork to mash the seasonings to a paste and add it to the onion and peppers. Add the rice and sauté over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the grains with oil. Add the meats,
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