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Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Recipe adapted from The Science of Good Cooking.  [Recipe makes 6 to 8 servings].

I can't explain where or why the obsession started, but the past few months I've found myself craving and ordering beans and rice whenever it's available.  Just by the name, it sounds like a pretty basic dish, but the combination of spices, textures, flavors, and colors seem to create something more than the name implies.  It's great on its own, as a side dish, or even as a filling in a fresh tortilla.

The only thing to note about this recipe is that you'll have to start the night before, as the beans need to soak in a brine for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours.

INGREDIENTS:

Kosher salt
1 cup dried black beans
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 large green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and halved
1 large white onion, halved and peeled
10 garlic cloves, divided
2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice (not instant)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 ounces lean salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 scallions, sliced thin at an angle
Lime wedges

DIRECTIONS:

 Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt in 2 quarts (8 cups) of cold water in a large bowl.  Add the beans and let them soak for between 8 and 24 hours.

Once the beans have brined, drain and rinse.

In a Dutch oven, combine the beans, broth, water, one of the four green pepper halves, one onion half, 5 garlic cloves, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Bring to a simmer, and then cover and reduce the heat to low where you'll simmer for 35 minutes, or until the beans are just soft.

While the beans are simmering, finely chop the remaining three bell pepper halves as well as the remaining onion half.  Reserve.  In addition, mince the remaining 5 garlic cloves, keeping it separate from the other vegetables.

When the beans are ready, pick out the green pepper, onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaves and discard.  Drain the beans over a bowl, reserving 3 cups of the bean cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Transfer the rice to a fine mesh strainer and run cold water over it until the water running out is clear, one to two minutes.  Reserve.  Add one tablespoon of oil to the Dutch oven and heat over medium-low heat.  Add the salt pork and stir until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.  Add the remaining olive oil, along with the chopped peppers and onions, cumin, and oregano.  Increase the heat to medium and continue stirring until the vegetables start to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and cook for one minute, and then add the rice and stir for another minute.  Lastly, add the beans, bean cooking liquid, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  Bring to a simmer, and then cover tightly and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.  Once ready remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.  Serve with scallions and lime wedges.

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