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Abuela’s Frijoles Negros

June 3, 2009

For the sake of full disclosure, this is not technically my abuela’s black bean recipe.

Occasionally you may see an extraordinarily fussy commenter who goes by the handle of Raf.  Well, Raf and I go way back, so you may be hearing more about him in the future.  And food, and disagreeing about food, has always been central to of our relationship.  Although sometimes we agree.

We agree on these black beans.  The recipe comes from his abuela.  And if we really want to split hairs, we could call her his ex-step-abuela.  Families are complicated.  But our friends were very excited when Dan’s father remarried into a Cuban family, because it meant that we might all be the beneficiaries of firsthand knowledge of the cuisine.

Nothing is more central to Cuban food than black beans and rice.

Back in Miami, Raf learned at the elbow of the grande dame of his stepfamily.  And we all can now benefit from the pearls of her wisdom.

Day one:
Get a big big pot.
Take 2 lbs of dried black beans, picked over just in case a small pebble wandered in.
Measure 20 16 cups of water and pour into the pot with the beans.
Take 2 green peppers, remove their seeds (personally I like to peel them too), chop and add to the water.
Cover the pot and let it sit overnight.

Day two:
Grab a large sauté pan.
Take the pot of beans and boil for about 45 minutes or until they are soft.

Chop 2 large onions, 10 garlic cloves and 2 additional green peppers.
Put 1 cup of olive oil into sauté pan.
Sauté the vegetables with 2T of salt in the oil over medium/high heat until tender.

Remove one cup of beans from the pot and mash them.
Add the mashed beans to the vegetables and sauté further, until melded.
Put the vegetable and bean mixture back in the bean pot.
Add additional 2t of salt, 1t pepper, ½t oregano, 2 bay leaves, 2T sugar to pot.
Bring to a lively simmer, and simmer for an hour.

Add 2T plain white vinegar and 4T dry white “cooking wine”.
[Note: This is the only recipe in which I use “cooking wine” and I look for a Spanish brand such as Goya.  It is important to underscore that this “cooking wine” is different than a wine you would use for cooking.  The “cooking wine” referenced here is actually salted, yes salted, and sold in Latin markets.  The beans actually need the additional salt from the cooking wine.  Deviate from these instructions at your peril.]

Simmer on low until reduced to your desired thickness.
Finish the beans by mixing in an additional 4T of olive oil.  It gives the beans a glossy finish and silky texture.

These black beans are so delicious.  I swear I could eat them every day.
Which is good, because in Cuba, they do.

If you were going to be enjoying this in the Miami-Cuban style, you would make some sticky white rice.  We aren’t always such slaves to tradition in our house.  More likely than not, we will eat these on brown rice.  They certainly have a big enough flavor to stand up to the assertiveness of brown rice.

Making the brown rice so it’s not gummy is a bit of a trick.  But we’ll save that for another time.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2009 10:27 am

    Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum. Black beans never seem to cook perfectly in my own house. I cannot wait to try this puppy out.

  2. Jennifer permalink
    June 4, 2009 9:43 am

    My beans are soaking right now. Can’t wait to see how this comes out!

  3. Tonia permalink
    June 4, 2009 2:06 pm

    Sauteed garlic, onion, and pepper included in the water for rice goes perfect with this and sweet plantains and sliced avocado w/lime and salt. This combo…. no words.

    I have to go against the brown rice on this one. Yucky. ;-)

  4. albany john permalink
    June 5, 2009 11:18 am

    As I make the beans, I concur. I’m actually curious how this would come out in a microwave… now before you start being repulsed, polenta and cooking dried beans are actually things microwaves are good at…

  5. Jennifer permalink
    June 5, 2009 11:55 am

    I ended up being too busy to cook last night. Now my beans have been soaking two days. Is that bad? Can I still use them as is?

    • June 5, 2009 5:34 pm

      Hopefully by now you have gone ahead with the recipe anyway (instead of tossing the oversoaked beans). Methinks they will taste fine, though I suspect they may not hold their shape quite as well. Please let us know how they turned out. Thanks.

  6. Jennifer permalink
    June 6, 2009 4:29 pm

    I did go ahead with the recipe and they were just fine.
    One interesting thing I noticed was that I tasted the beans before I added the vinegar and the cooking wine and I thought they were fantastic. But when they were done after being cooked with the vinegar and wine, I didn’t like them as much. They were still good but I thought they were much better before that final step.
    I think the recipe is a keeper, I’ll just do it without the vinegar and wine next time.
    I served them with some brown rice that I added a couple of sazon packets to to make it nice and yellow. And then we had broiled chicken cutlets marinated in a paste of garlic, lemon, white vinegar, pepper, salt and oregano. Yummy…thanks.

  7. BenP permalink
    July 6, 2009 10:10 pm

    Megan made these this weekend and they were delicious. Extremely creamy. We served it with brown rice and a bit of sour cream & avocado.

    I tried making some brown rice (apparently for the first time in my life) for the leftovers and was shocked at how long it took. i will refer to the brown rice post…

  8. Klab permalink
    February 16, 2015 7:10 pm

    I’m rarely a fan of pre-cooked rice because of additives, sodium and price vs. cooking rice at home. But, since I’ve yet to master the art of cooking perfect brown rice, I resorted to those orange Uncle Ben’s pre-cooked rice pouches. They actually offer plain brown rice, fully and perfectly cooked with no other added ingredients. I often find them at Super Walmart for about $1.25 a pouch filled with about 2 cups of rice. It’s worth checking out.

  9. Jack C. permalink
    October 28, 2015 2:52 pm

    Treat the brown rice like pasta:

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