Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice (Moros y Cristianos)
Beans and rice is a familiar combination the world over, but Cuban black beans and rice is unique in that the rice is cooked in the inky concentrated liquid left over from cooking the beans, which renders the grains just as flavorful. For our own superlative version, we reserved a portion of the sofrito (the traditional combination of garlic, bell pepper, and onion) and simmered it with our beans to infuse them with flavor. Instead of just draining off and throwing away the flavorful bean cooking liquid, we used it again to cook our rice and beans together. Lightly browning the remaining sofrito vegetables and spices with rendered salt pork added complex, meaty flavor, and baking the dish in the oven eliminated the crusty bottom that can form when the dish is cooked on the stove. (less)
Serve this recipe as a side dish or as a main course with a simple green salad. It is important to use lean—not fatty—salt pork. If you can’t find it, substitute six slices of bacon. If using bacon, decrease the cooking time in step 4 to eight minutes. For a vegetarian version of this recipe, use water instead of chicken broth, omit the salt pork, add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with the vegetables in step 4, and increase the amount of salt in step 5 to 1½ teaspoons.
- Table salt
- 1 1 1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
- 2 2 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (see note)
- 2 2 2 cups water
- 2 2 2 large green bell peppers, halved and seeded
- 1 1 1 large onion, halved at equator and peeled, root end left intact
- 1 1 5 5 garlic, 5 medium cloves removed and minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons), remaining head halved at equator with skin left intact
- 2 2 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 1 1/2 1/2 cups long grain white rice
- 2 2 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 6 1/4-inch ounces lean salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch dice (see note)
- 1 1 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves
- 4 4 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 2 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 2 2 medium scallions, sliced thin
- 1 1 8 lime, cut into 8 wedges
Adapted from americastestkitchen.com
Dissolve 1½ tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in a large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
In large Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid, stir together drained beans, broth, water, 1 pepper half, 1 onion half (with root end), halved garlic head, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until beans are just soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard pepper, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Drain beans in colander set over large bowl, reserving 2½ cups bean cooking liquid. (If you don’t have enough bean cooking liquid, add water to equal 2½ cups.) Do not wash out Dutch oven.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rice in a large fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear, about 1½ minutes. Shake strainer vigorously to remove all excess water; set rice aside. Cut remaining peppers and onion into 2-inch pieces and process in food processor until broken into rough ¼-inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary; set vegetables aside.
In now-empty Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil and salt pork over medium-low heat; cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and rendered, 15 to 20 minutes. Add remaining tablespoon oil, chopped peppers and onion, oregano, and cumin. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and stir to coat, about 30 seconds.
Stir in beans, reserved bean cooking liquid, vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Fluff with fork and let rest, uncovered, 5 minutes. Serve, passing scallion and lime wedges separately.