I’ve been watching all of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade festivities that went on in NYC and Chicago from my side of the screen, so of course I felt left out and decided to celebrate here in Denver by making myself a meal of chuletas fritas con arroz blanco y habichuelas rojas, or fried pork chops with white rice and red kidney beans.

This main dish is as down-home as you can get, and is commonly served in most Latin Caribbean households. It is a finger-licking combination of fried pork chops with fluffy white rice and saucy red kidney beans. The pork chops are usually seasoned with a marinade that contains a variety of spices that differ from home to home. For this recipe, I strayed away from the common ingredients, like garlic, sazon, and sofrito; instead, I used recaito, adobo, and a little salt and pepper. Recaito is a puree made of aromatics like onion and garlic, but specifically includes an herb known as recao or culantro—not to be confused with cilantro, though you can substitute the two if necessary. If you’re of Puerto Rican, Dominican, or Cuban descent, you might notice the absence of sofrito and sazon in this version of habichuelas rojas. That was intentional. Recaito lends an immense herbal flavor that is so unique to many islands of the Caribbean. Marinating the chops overnight in the wonderful pungency of recaito compliments these saucy beans, so the sofrito and the sazon were kept out this time so as to not compete with the powerful flavors. Even with traditional recipes, one can get creative. 

Making Chuletas fritas con arroz blanco y habichuelas rojas (Pork Chops with Rice & Beans) (Kelly Torres video)

Pork Chops with Rice and Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients for the arroz blanco:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter

2 cups of jasmine rice, rinsed and strained

3 1/4 cup water

salt to taste

Instructions for the arroz blanco:

On medium-high heat, heat up the olive oil. Add the rice and the butter. Toast the rice for 2-3 minutes. Add the water and the salt to taste. Turn the heat up to high. When the rice and water reach the same level, stir thoroughly and cover. Turn the heat to low. Set your timer for 12 minutes. Let it cook on low for the full 12 minutes without lifting the lid, not even to peek at what's going on. When the timer goes off, turn the heat off and set your timer for 10 minutes. Let sit with the heat off and without lifting the lid. When the timer goes off, lift the lid, allowing any accumulated steamy water to drip back onto the rice. Fluff the rice with a fork. Your arroz blanco is ready to eat!

Ingredients for the habichuelas rojas:

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 onion, diced small

1 medium carrot, thinly sliced on a bias

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

pinch red chili flakes

2 tbsp store bought recaito

15.5 oz can of red kidney beans, strained

1 1/2 cup chicken stock

Instructions for the habichuelas rojas:

On medium heat, heat up the olive oil. Add the onions and the carrots, saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and red chili flakes. Saute for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the recaito, stir thoroughly. Add the red kidney beans and mash a few times, leaving a few beans whole. Add the chicken stock and stir thoroughly. When the stock comes to a boil, turn the heat to low. Let cook on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Your habichuelas rojas are ready to eat!

Ingredients for the chuletas fritas:

2 tbsp olive oil

4 thi, bone-in pork chops

Adobo, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pinch of red chili flakes

1/4 cup recaito, store-bought

Instructions for the chuletas fritas:

In a large bowl, massage the pork chops with the adobo, salt & pepper, red chili flakes, and recaito. Cover the bowl and let it marinate for 30 minutes on the countertop or overnight in the fridge. If kept overnight, take out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking to cut the chill. In a large saute pan, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat. Sear the pork chops on both sides until fully cooked and golden brown or until a digital thermometer inserted into the thickest piece of a pork chop reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 10-12 minutes. Your chuletas fritas are ready to eat!

Note: Whenever possible, serve sliced avocado with any Caribbean meal!

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