Mrs. Regueiro's Plate: Frijoles Negros (Cuban Black Beans)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Frijoles Negros (Cuban Black Beans)

Eric's mom, my wonderful MIL, taught me how to make her Frijoles Negros because she makes them the best. Quite literally, everyone in the family loves her Frijoles Negros - you can taste the labor of love that she puts in them because they are so perfect and full of sabor. She taught me the most important part of making beans is tasting them and salt is the key to making your beans flavorful. Of course, there are no precise measurements either, she taught me a little bit of this, and cup of that, but it was all about things you incorporate.

I learned that you want the beans saltier, use bacon instead of a ham hock. Most ham hocks that I come across are smoked and don't provide enough salt to the beans. I've also used salt pork, and it works well, too. In my opinion, center-cut bacon is the best for flavor for my frijoles negros. There is a pepper that my mother-in-law grows in her garden that she adds to her beans that adds her personal touch. Hopefully when they visit us or vice versa, she'll bring me some seeds to plant in our garden. It's not an habanero chile, or anything spicy - it's something in spanish that I can't spell or translate myself -it's one of those Cuban peppers that make the dish but the recipe is perfectly fine without the addition of the pepper, too. Enjoy!

Frijoles Negros (Cuban Black Beans)

Original Krystal Recipe
1 pound dried black beans
8 cups water (enough to cover the beans in the pressure cooker)
2 tablespoon olive oil
6 slices of good-quality bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 ½ cups chopped onion (about 1 large yellow onion)
1 ½ cups chopped green bell pepper (about 1 medium-large bell pepper)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil for sautéing
1 tablespoon Sazon completa
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 bay leaf
½ cup dry cooking wine (Spanish)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (really just a splash)
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste
½ teaspoon baking soda (it's a trick to make the beans not gasey)
1. Pick over the beans carefully and rinse well. Combine dried black beans with water in a 6 quart pressure cooker. Cover and let stand overnight. Make sure you have 2/3 water to cover the beans.
2. The next day, bring the beans to a boil in pressure cooker – do not toss the water that the beans soaked in. (You can add additional water if needed.) After the little knob on the pressure cooker goes up, cook on low heat for about 45 minutes, giving it enough time for the beans to tenderize in the water.
3. Prepare the sofrito. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-heat frying pan and sauté the bacon slices until par-crispy. Then remove the bacon and add the onions and bell peppers. Cook until translucent (maybe 7 minutes) and add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional minute. Season with salt and pepper.
4. When the beans have cooled slightly, add the sofrito, bacon pieces, cumin, sazon complete, vinegar, cooking wine, baking soda and bay leaves. Cook and simmer over low heat for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. (It’s important to taste at this point, the beans need the salt for flavor.) You'll probably add at least 1 teaspoon of salt or more.
5. Remove the bay leaves & garnish with chopped cilantro and serve the frijoles negros over white rice.

Review: My black beans par well with Eric's cuban family. This past Christmas Eve I brought them over when we did lechon asado. Everyone had rejoiced and said I was a glorified Cuban woman and that I make cuban beans as good as any Cuban cook. I laughed it off, but thanked my mother-in-law for teaching me her recipe because somehow I made it my own. It's a filipino-cubanized black beans, fusion at it's best.
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