Cuban-Style Black Beans

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With all of the hurricanes and traveling going on, I haven’t been eating very well lately.  That’s not to say that I haven’t had a lot of DELICIOUS food these past few weeks, but my stomach was long overdue for a break.  This weekend, I just wanted something simple.  Something that helped me feel like I was truly back home here in Miami.  I wanted black beans.

Truth be told, I had tried making black beans several times in the past using the stovetop method that I got from my mother, as well as other methods I found through online research. Every single attempt was a failure.  It wasn’t until the Instant Pot came into my life that I was able to make beans without a crunchy center.  And, once I got the bean technique down, the recipe adaptations soon followed.

If you have looked at my moros recipe, then you will probably notice that these are very similar.  Actually, my moros recipe was adapted from this recipe for Cuban style black beans, which was itself an adaptation of my mother’s recipe for black beans and a few recipes that I found online and what I remember about the black beans served at my favorite Cuban restaurants.  Most of them use chicharrones (fried pork belly), but I’m using bacon because it’s easier to work with.

We start by cooking the beans.  Throw the dried beans in your electric pressure cooker with a quartered green pepper, a few cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, and a ham hock.  Add 8 cups of water and 2 tsp of salt. You can also replace the water with chicken broth or stock, but make sure to adjust the salt accordingly.  In this batch, I used water and chicken bullion, and hardly needed any additional salt.

Seal and cook on High Pressure for 25 minutes, and then allow the pressure to release naturally.  Open the pressure cooker and discard the green pepper, bay leaves, and garlic.  Remove the ham hock, chop any meat left on it, and set it aside.  Take about 1 cup of beans from the pot and mash them up in a bowl or cup, then return to the pot and set it to Saute/Browning and simmer the beans (stirring frequently to keep them from sticking) while you are doing the next steps.  This is where the process is a little bit different than moros.

While the beans are simmering, make the sofrito.  Have all of your sofrito ingredients prepped and ready to go.  Cook the chopped bacon in a skillet or saute pan over medium to medium high heat until it’s crispy.  Remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside, but leave the bacon grease behind.  Note that you do not have to use the bacon if you don’t want to.  You can skip that part and heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in your pan, if you prefer.Add the diced onions, red peppers, and green peppers.  Cook until the vegetables start to turn translucent, then add the garlic and the seasonings.  Continue to cook, stirring, until fragrant, then add vinegar.  Take your sofrito and pour it into the pot of simmering beans.  Taste it and adjust the seasoning as needed, then continue simmering until the beans are the desired thickness.  Stir in the cooked bacon and chopped ham bits.

You can enjoy the black beans on their own as a soup, or you can serve along with white rice.  The black beans also freeze incredibly well, so you can make a big batch and then freeze parts of it for the future.  Sometimes I also add chopped cilantro for a bit of zing.  I have also added jalapeno and poblano pepper if I want it to have a kick.

Cuban-Style Black Beans

Ingredients

  • 1lb dried black beans
  • 1 green pepper, quartered
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 cloves of garlic (5 whole and 5 minced)
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon, chopped (or 2 tbsp olive oil)
  • 1 cup diced green pepper
  • 1 cup diced red pepper
  • 2 cups diced white onion
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
  • 3 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 8 cups of water (or chicken broth/stock)

Directions

Combine the beans, quartered green pepper, ham hock, bay leaves, 5 cloves of garlic, water (or broth/stock), and 2 teaspoons of salt (adjust if using broth/stock) in the liner of your electric pressure cooker.  Cover, seal, and cook on Manual (High Pressure) for 25 minutes.  Allow the pressure to release naturally, then open and discard the bay leaves, green pepper, and garlic.  Remove the ham hock, chop up any meat remaining on it, and set aside.

Using a slotted spoon, remove about 1 cup of beans from the pot.  Mash them with a fork, then return to the pot.  Set the pressure cooker to Saute/Browning, and bring to a simmer, stirring often to keep the beans from sticking to the bottom.

In a large skillet or saute pan, cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside, but leave the bacon grease.  Add the diced onion, diced green pepper, and diced red pepper to the hot pan with the bacon grease and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to turn translucent.  Add the minced garlic and the spices.  Cook until fragrant.  Add the vinegar and continue to cook for an additional 1 or 2 minutes.

Remove the sauteed vegetable mixture from the heat and pour into the pot of simmering beans.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Continue simmering until the desired thickness, then stir in the bacon and chopped ham hock.  Turn off pressure cooker and allow the beans to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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