Finding a Great Recipe while Lost in Harlem

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The other week I had an event to go to at Fort Washington Park in Harlem, New York. It was the spring picnic for Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project. I had a driver named J.R. Crayton pick me up (in a Prius), since I wasn’t sure where the park was. Well, we started talking. I started by complaining that I was hungry. He told me he was planning a barbecue to celebrate his 20th anniversary of sobriety. I shared my 10 years of sobriety story and then I started asking him what he was going to make for his barbecue. While he was explaining his recipe for beans and rice, we missed the turn the GPS was trying to tell us to take, and spent the next HOUR trying to find our way to the park. We asked everyone we could find. We called people. We recalculated the GPS about 20 times. By the time he finally dropped me off at the picnic, I had missed cocktails (well, not that I would have had one anyway) and felt slightly carsick and distressed.

BUT, I had an interesting new recipe to try. Try it I did, and it’s amazing! It was totally worth getting lost in Harlem for. Now you can try it, without the stress of being late for a party. In fact, this is party portions.

J.R. recommended using smoked turkey wings, but I could only find a leg (with thigh attached). He also uses Uncle Ben’s white rice; I use organic brown rice. Grown-ups will want to add some hot sauce of choice. Kids will eat it out of the bowl like cereal. The secret ingredient? Coconut milk! And no, the rice doesn’t taste like coconut. J.R. says the coconut milk makes the rice tender, and it does. It makes it creamy and rich, without tasting like coconut at all. I only used half a can. With the other half, you can make a piña colada (virgin, of course). I’m still working on that recipe to share.

Beans and Rice


2 smoked turkey wings (or one smoked turkey leg)
8 cups water
3 cups brown rice
½ can coconut milk
1 can red beans
Salt to taste


1. Put the wings or leg in a giant pot with 8 cups of water, and boil then simmer until the meat falls off the bone (about 2 hours)—lid off.

2. Separate the broth from the bones and meat.

3. Add the rice and the coconut milk. Bring to a boil and stir.
4. After the rice comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally (about 40 minutes for brown rice).

5. When the rice looks almost done, add back the turkey meat, the can of beans, and some salt. Stir again and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

I’m still looking for a great organic hot sauce. I can’t seem to find one. Recommendations, anyone?


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12 Responses to Finding a Great Recipe while Lost in Harlem

  1. Peter June 4, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    So tell me: Why do you post stuff like this when we’re still three hours away from lunch? It’s cruel, really.

  2. Deborah June 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    Sounds TERRIFIC! I’m a-gonna make it this weekend.

    What sizes of “cans”?

  3. Gill June 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Might be a good recipe but not for the poor turkey who was slaughtered for the sake of gluttonous, carnivorous appetites. I believe in organic, and the best organic is vegetarian organic.

  4. Jean Nick June 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    GIll, you’ll win more converts to vegetarianism by being more inviting and respectful.

    There are plenty of farmers who raise poultry and other livestock outside, following organic principles, on land that is not suitable for growing any crops other than grass (which we humans can’t digest), treat the animals with great respect and kindness, slaughter them in the most humane manner we can, and sell the meat locally to people who choose to make meat a modest part of their diets. Not everyone wants to eat meat, and that’s wonderful. Some people do, if they can get meat raised the way we raise it, and that’s wonderful too. There is room in the organic movement for both, and the organic movement needs to stick together — now more than ever — as Industrial Ag is starting to notice us and turn on the big guns to put us out of business. If we don’t stick together now we will have a much slimmer chance of weathering the storm, and we may all find ourselves limited to what we can grow for ourselves and trade under the radar.

    Let’s all agree on organic, demand more organic, and respect each others preferences.

  5. maria (farm country kitchen) June 4, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    Dear Deborah, I use a small can but you can really use any size can you want, depending on your preferred ratio of beans to rice.

    Gill, how about the vegetarians and meat eaters work together to make the world a better place for people and animals…demand organic!

    Peter, it’s almost dinner time!

    xo! Have a great weekend everyone!

  6. Deborah from Canada June 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    YUM…This I have to try first chance I get. My meat and potato eating husband is cautious whenever I serve vegetarian but he is fast becoming won over by the variety and flavor.

  7. YouEspee45 June 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    I think the title of this article should be “Finding a Great Recipe while Latently Racist in Harlem.”

    Sylvia’s, only a world famous soul food restaurant is located in Harlem, but good thing you turned to the “Uncle Bens.”

  8. Kathianne June 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    Sounds good, but is there any way to keep the fat down to a minimun???

  9. Kathianne June 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Sounds good but is there any way to keep the fat down to a minimum. I usually don’t use combine fat with carbs like beans or rice???

  10. dblinder June 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi Kathianne-

    You might want to check out Prevention’s Health Recipe Finder ( There you can find all sorts of recipes and narrow down your search by ingredient and dietary concerns.

    Happy cooking!
    – Dana @ MFCK

  11. maria (farm country kitchen) March 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

    Actually YouEspee45, if you read carefully you will see that it was the black driver who used the Uncle Ben’s. I only use organic rice. And I am open to whatever culture and race and belief system — uniting with love and dignity over a good recipe!

    Plus, we didn’t have time to stop at Sylvia’s.

    Thank you! Hope you are still around to read this!

    (Making this for dinner tonight and I had to find the recipe on my blog to remember how to make it! It’s still totally yum!)

  12. maria (farm country kitchen) March 20, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    Oh wait, on re-reading I realize I didn’t mention that he was black. Probably because it didn’t make a difference to me. He was a lovely man and I will always be grateful to his sharing.

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