26 November, 2011

Frijoles Negros A La Criolla | What's Cookin'?

Ernie states, "This recipe is typically Cuban.... my aunts and grandmother always cooked the black beans this way."

Several hours of boiling and simmering the beans are to be expected, so plan accordingly. Make sure the water level is sufficient to always cover the beans by at least three fingers (about two-inches). 

Frijoles Negros A La Criolla
(Ernie's Black Bean Soup Creole-Style ingredients)
Servings not stated
Estimated Yield 6 cups
1-lb black beans, uncooked
1/4-lb salt pork (tocino), cut into small cubes
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper or Lemon Pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar 1/4 to 1/2 tsp Wholesome! Organic Blue Agave Nectar Liquid Sweetener (Light), depending upon vinegar acidity and flavor and desired tartness
1/4 cup red wine vinegar having 5% - 7% acidity (see Notes below)
Salt to taste

Frijoles Negros A La Criolla Directions
Getting started
Rinse beans a couple of times and let stand overnight in pot of clean water (approximately three fingers above black bean level).

Boil beans
Next morning, fill a 6-quart stainless steel stockpot about 1/2-full of water and bring to a boil.

Once the water is boiling, carefully add the beans and salted pork cubes to the stockpot and return to a boil. Always keep water level above the beans.

Then, boil beans over Medium heat until beans are tender. Make sure the water level is sufficient to always cover the beans by at least three fingers (about two-inches). You may need to add more water. As needed, I add hot water from the tap in one-quart increments.

Prepare vegetables
While the beans are boiling, wash and dry the bell pepper. Peel onion. Chop vegetables and place in a medium size bowl. Cover and set aside until you are ready to sauté the aromatics.

Keeping it separate, trim, peel and mince the garlic clove. Set aside.

Sauté aromatics and simmer beans
When beans are tender, lower heat and simmer, covered.

In a frying pan, place green pepper, onion, garlic, Bay leaves, cumin, and black pepper with the olive oil. Brown mixture over Medium heat and then, pour it into the bean pot.

Whisk together the liquid sweetener and vinegar; add to the beans, stir, and cover pot. Simmer awhile longer until broth becomes heavy and the desired bean tenderness is reached.

Taste and add salt, if necessary.

Serve warm with or without hot, cooked white rice.

Frijoles Negros A La Criolla Notes
  • This recipe cannot be rushed. In my experience, and depending upon the age of the dried beans, the beans will boil for at least two (2) hours and often three (3) or more hours before softening, even if pre-soaked. 

  • Generally, I use one smoked ham hock for a 1-lb batch. When doubling this recipe, I may use one (12-oz / 340g) package Hormel Cured Salt Pork, cubed, instead. 

  • I layer flavors by using either balsamic vinegar or a complementary infused red wine vinegar. One of my favorites is Rosemary-Thyme-Jalapeño Red Wine Vinegar. Also, I reduce sweetener for lower vinegar acidity. For example, I typically use 1/4 tsp liquid sweetener for 1/4 cup vinegar having 5% acidity and more for 7% acidity. Frequently, I double the vinegar quantity to enhance the piquancy.   

  • When doubling this recipe, I use 10-quart pot to boil and simmer the beans and 3.5-quart skillet to sauté the aromatics. The 10-quart size has ample capacity for adding liquid to the beans and the height helps protect from bubbling splatters of the boiling beans. 

  • Slightly adapts Ernie A.and Broward County Library System Multicultural Committee, "Frijoles Negros A La Criolla." What's Cookin'? (Kearney: Morris Press, 1992), 43.

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