There was a terrific little piece by Sam Sifton in the Times magazine last weekend on rice and beans, Boricua style:
A restaurant kitchen can be a kind of mother, too. This is particularly true in New York, where so many eat out so often. Indeed, for many of those born in New York — and there are more than 2.4 million of these natives in the state, according to census data run through the computers of Andrew A. Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College — Puerto Rican rice and beans have little to do with blood relationships. Rice and beans are instead a shared and familiar experience, offered to all alongside dishes of roast pork or baked chicken (sweet beneath its crispy skin), dense and hearty mofongo, buttered toast, fried plantains and yuca.
Of course, rice and beans are served across Latin America, in different variations, with different beans, for different reasons. You will find superior platters of them in Brazil, in the Dominican Republic, across Mexico. The best of New York’s are literally Nuyorican, a word that arose to describe the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York, the almost 10 percent of the city that has its familial roots in the commonwealth but sees its children bloom on the concrete of the South Bronx, East Harlem, along Columbia Street in Brooklyn.
Nuyorican restaurant rice and beans are food for flame-haired detectives coming off the day shift and chalk-hued art kids jittery and lost amid the salsa beats, for tired high-school teachers, for back-office fellows off the clock. They are the taste of comic-opera hangovers, honest hunger, game-day excess, hard work. They are an authentic taste of a New York that real-estate developers and change can never diminish.
Here is the recipe. I’m all over this. Once again, I don’t know the scientific explanation but bacon makes it better.