Last week in the New York Times article Rice, Across its Spectrum, Mark Bittman included a recipe for Jamaican Rice and Beans. Thus, as the granddaughter of Jamaican immigrants, I am forced to ask an obvious question. Where on earth were the fact checkers? Beans? The unofficial national dish of Jamaica, aka The Coat of Arms, is never, ever called anything other than Rice and Peas, and in that order, lest you be confused for a Bajan.
Simply put, Rice and Peas are dried legumes cooked with onions, spices, thyme, scotch bonnets, coconut milk and rice. Like Mr. Bittman's version, the dish often uses kidney beans, but peas are not a misnomer. My grandfather traditionally used what he called "gungo peas" or pigeon peas, while my mother chose black eyed peas, perhaps because they were more familiar and readily available in the US.
To be fair, my Jamaican Rice and Peas are via New York not Kingston. Growing up we never used green onions or thyme, which grow wild on the island, but not in Hempstead circa 1972. We did, however, always include coconut, often fresh, and scotch bonnet peppers, in the form of the ever-present bottle of yellow hot sauce. In general, it's a pretty fluid recipe; you can try a pinch of allspice one time, a touch of salt pork the next, maybe even some adobo, but don't mess with the name or it becomes something else entirely.
It's a perfect dish for large family gatherings, especially with Jerk Chicken and a Red Stripe. Just like "back home" even if that's Long Island!