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Sara's Secrets: Rick's Black Beans

A very good rendition of black beans. Flavored with onions, garlic, and a smoked ham hock, these beans taste great and get even better after a day or two in the refrigerator.

This is another recipe from the "Cooking Ahead" chapter. The eponymous "Rick" is Sara Moulton's brother-in-law, who developed the recipe.

I had two minor issues with the recipe: first, it's a good idea to seed the tomatoes. I've added this instruction to the recipe -- the seeds weren't a huge problem, but the beans would be better without them. And second: even after the beans had cooked for the time specified in the recipe, they were still very soupy. I took the lid off the pot and cooked them until a lot of the excess liquid had evaporated, and they were fine. Try them with the Cuban-Style Roast Pork. The beans will keep for several days in the refrigerator, and can also be frozen.

Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus ovenight soaking
Cook Time: about 2 hours
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 pound black beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
9 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 Tbsp)
One 3/4 pound smoked ham hock or meaty ham bone
4 cups chicken broth
2 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
12 oz. plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced (about 1 cup)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried

The night before cooking, pick over the beans and rinse thoroughly. Combine with water to cover by 2 inches, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the beans and rinse under cold water. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Cut crosswise slashes through the skin of the ham hock and add it to the saucepan along with the beans, chicken broth, cumin, bay leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Transfer the ham hock to a plate and set it aside to cool. Add the tomatoes and herbs to the saucepan. Cook, uncovered, until the beans are tender and the mixture isn't too soupy, about 30 to 40 minutes. When the ham hock is cool enough to handle, remove the meat. Discard the skin, fat, and bone. Coarsely chop the meat and return it to the beans. When beans are tender, discard the bay leaves. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.



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