Don’t you just love a lazy Sunday? I woke up in the morning with no plans, except for a trip to the Laundromat (which is always a massive undertaking, unfortunately). But before I left, I had a stroke of genius: Throw some ropa vieja in the slow cooker. I figured there’d be time, later, to make yellow rice. And what completes the meal? Black beans.
I know, I know, making beans from scratch requires planning and forethought, soaking and simmering. Except that it really doesn’t—as I first read on The Paupered Chef and later on eGullet, you can decide you’d like some fresh-made beans and, a mere 90 minutes later, sit down to eat. The first time I tried this method, I played it safe and went for plain ol’ beans. But that got me thinking: What if I applied spontaneous beanery to an actual recipe, flavoring the beans from the very beginning? Folks, I’m here to tell you: It works. It really works. The frijoles I made are adapted from the slow-cooker recipe I usually use, but since Harry is so vegetable-averse he’ll pick out even the tiniest bits, I made it even simpler. Big hunks of onion and whole cloves of garlic, to be fished out later. And the flavor is better than the slow-cooked version. The beans hold their shape better, with almost no split skins, and the chipotle’s smoky heat really shines through.
Got 90 minutes and a bag of beans? Make some tonight.
90-Minute Frijoles Negros
Serves 6 as a main course, 10-12 as a side
One 1-pound package black turtle beans
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 chipotle in adobo, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
½ cup prepared sofrito
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 250. Dump everything into a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Add water to cover by one inch, and heat, uncovered, over a high flame until boiling. Turn off heat, cover, and put it in the oven for 75 minutes or so—check around the 45 minute mark and add more water if necessary [I didn’t need to]. Some beans take longer to cook than others, so if they’re not done at 75 minutes check again in 15 minutes. Before serving, fish out the large pieces of onion and the garlic cloves (or heck, if you think you’ll like ’em, go ahead and leave them in).
My beans were still the tiniest bit too firm at the 75-minute mark, but dinner was hours away so I pulled them out and let them sit, covered. By the time we sat down to eat, the residual heat had cooked them perfectly.