Thursday, May 21, 2009

Paladar CM: Frijoles Negros

On my recent Cuban-cooking foray, I decided on some comfort food, frijoles negros, black beans. This is actually a really easy recipe. It just takes some pre-planning as you have to soak the dried beans over night.

1. Sort through 1 package of dried black beans. Sometimes you find little rocks in the package. This is normal. Do not throw them out and start again just pick through them carefully. Making faces with the beans is optional.

2. Rinse the beans. This is not optional. The beans come to you a little bit dusty. The liquid in the white coffee cup is what came off the beans. Yuck! You don't want to eat this.

3. Add 6 cups of water to the beans and soak overnight. If you are pressed for time, just soak for 3-4 hours. Don't throw out this water when you go on to the next step.

4. Add a seeded green pepper to the pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and stir occassionally. Cook for one hour.

5. Make the sofrito. Sofrito is a sautee of onions, green peppers, garlic and olive oil. You can chop these finely, or use the food processor. My mom used the food processor for years because her kids didn't like chunky food. I like using it because it thickens the sauce and let's face it, sometimes I still don't like chunky food!

6. After you make the sofrito and cook it down in a frying pan until the onions and peppers soften a bit, add it to the beans and cook for another hour, or until the beans are tender, but not mushy.

7. Add one or two bay leaves, a tablespoon of sugar, a splash of vinegar, a sprinkle of oregano, and a pinch of cumin. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Another 20 minutes on the stove and you are ready for dinner.

These are the finished black beans. The beans are tender and the broth is a deep, dark brown. Although you can make this recipe much more quickly using canned beans, you can only get this color in the broth when you use dried beans and soak them for a long period of time.

Black beans freeze really well, so be sure to save some for later. I froze two of these bags and brought one over to Dennis and Tina. Who knew Paladar Carmen Maria would start out as a cantina. Unlike a Mexican cantina, which stands for a casual dining place, a Cuban cantina is a way to get home-cooked meals delivered to your house. My mom tried a couple of cantinas while we were growing up. I still remember the stacked aluminum tins they came in full of greasy Cuban goodness and a too-sweet dessert. Having an inter-familia cantina is a great way to share meals when things are too busy for sit-down dinners.

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