(Claire's back today! She's doing me a solid during my post-Sydney/pre-Jersey jet lag transition and popping in to tell you about her black beans! I hear they are Cuban, maybe, but I think the part to focus on is the "easy weeknight dinner" part, because we can all use more meals like that!)
First thing’s first. Allie asked me what makes these “Cuban,” and the answer is I don’t really know. Stewed beans over rice is hardly unique to any one culture, and the addition of bell pepper and onion reminds me of sofrito (Puerto Rican) more than anything else. But don’t worry about this and call it whatever you like! We’re talking about slowly stewed black beans, full of flavor, served over rice and garnished with a little sour cream (or cheese or both). Around here, I refer to them as “those beans you like.” As in:
Husband: “Beans??? For dinner???”
Me: “Don’t worry. It’s those beans you like.”
It’s taken me ten years to convince the man that beans can be a main course. He didn’t even like beans when we met! These beans have gone a long way toward changing that crazy opinion.
As for the method, this is the easiest thing in the world, except perhaps for the need to plan ahead. The simplicity makes up for this! Just slice your peppers and onions, and place in your slow cooker with the dried beans and seasonings (except salt), add water and soak overnight. Turn the whole thing on low in the morning, and come home to a delicious pot of beans. A few finishing touches, and you’re on your way to dinner!
If you don’t have a slow cooker, I’ve included instructions for the stovetop. You’ll notice the pictures are the stovetop version. The last time I made these, I forgot to soak it all overnight and had to make it in real time. I will tell you, I prefer the slow cooker version, and not just because we ate dinner at 9:00 pm that day.
Cuban Black Beans
Adapted from The Saucy Southerner
- 1 bag dry black beans (1 pound). Pick them over to make sure there are no small stones, and give them a good rinse.
- 1 large white onion, sliced into half moons
- 1 large green bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 1 large red bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- sour cream, queso fresco, scallions, hot sauce (all optional, for garnish)
- cooked rice, for serving
If making in a slow cooker, place dried beans, onion, peppers, cumin, garlic and bay leaves in the pot and cover with water, making sure the water covers the mixture by 1 inch.
The next morning, check your water level. DO NOT DRAIN THE BEANS**. Make sure the beans have at least ½ inch of water over the mixture. Keep in mind that you lose very little liquid from the slow cooker, and the onions and peppers will release water as they cook. You want a good balance between enough liquid to keep the beans from burning, but not too much, or you will have soupy beans (see notes). See step 6 if this happens.
Turn the slow cooker on low, and set the timer for 6 hours. If yours does not have a timer, just set it to low. You won’t overcook these.
If making on the stovetop, place your beans in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, and removed from heat. Let beans soak for one hour.
DO NOT DRAIN THE BEANS. Add your onions, peppers, garlic, cumin and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the beans are creamy, adding water as needed. This can take 1-2 (maybe more!) hours, so the slow cooker is definitely the easiest method. Add salt as you go, to taste.
If you are using your slow cooker, you’ve just come home from work or errands, and its time to finish those beans. Depending on how much water there was in your slow cooker, and personal preference, you may want to cook them down a bit more. Transfer the mixture to a large pot, and simmer until creamy and stew-like. Add your salt, to taste. (If you are lucky enough to have a slow cooker insert that can go on the stovetop, obviously just use that.)
For both methods, once you have your beans to the consistency you like, add in your apple cider vinegar. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve over rice, with whatever garnishes you like!
If you have leftovers, they freeze beautifully, and go well in quesadillas, tacos, stirred into soup, with eggs, or just served as they are!
This is one of those dishes where you will want to add salt at the end. The whole thing reduces down A LOT, and so you risk adding too much if you try to season perfectly at the beginning.
Seriously, don’t drain the beans from the soaking water. This is where allllllll of the flavor is.