Congrí Oriental

Red Beans and Rice

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    6

    generously

Appears in

Eating Cuban

Eating Cuban

By Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs

Published 2006

  • About

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.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound dried small red beans, or 3 to 4 cups canned red beans, drained, liquid reserved

If Using Dried Beans

  • 1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste

If Using Dried or Canned Beans

  • 1 cup diced thick-sliced bacon
  • 2 cups diced Spanish chorizo, or other spicy sausage
  • cups diced ham steak
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • cups chopped onion (1 large)
  • cups chopped green bell pepper (2 medium)
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 cup medium-grain or long-grain white rice
  • 2 to 3 fresh ajis cachucha (mild Cuban chiles), seeded and minced (optional)
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley or cilantro (optional)

Method

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 1 tablespoon of drippings from the pan and add the oil. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the onion and peppers have softened, 10 to 15 minutes.

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, 4 cups of the bean liquid, 3 to 4 cups of the cooked beans, and the chiles. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve as a main course.