A Post-Holiday Recipe: Black Beans and Rice

After all the culinary indulgence of Thanksgiving, you'll probably only be interested in sinking your teeth into more pared-down dishes. And it doesn't get simpler than rice and beans.

This version is the creation of America's Test Kitchen, so it's very precise. I think you could get a little loose with it, especially in terms of technique, and still have a very delicious dinner in front of you.

Mark Bittman, American food writer extraordinaire, recommends that we eat only rice and beans once or twice a week. This version calls for salt pork or bacon, so it's not precisely what he had in mind, but close enough. (And we've included instructions for a vegetarian version.) Either way ... enjoy!

Photo courtesy America's Test Kitchen
Photo courtesy America's Test Kitchen   

Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice (Moros y Cristianos)
Serves 6 to 8 as a main and 8 to 10 as a side dish
1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (Vegetarians: use water instead of chicken broth, omit the salt pork, add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with the vegetables, and increase the amount of salt in the end to 1½ teaspoons.)
2 cups water
2 large green bell peppers , halved and seeded
1 large onion, halved at equator and peeled, root end left intact
1 head 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 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
2 tbsps olive oil
6 ounces lean salt pork , cut into 1/4-inch dice (use lean salt pork, and if unavailable, use six slices of bacon instead)
1 tbsp minced fresh oregano leaves
4 tsps ground cumin
2 tbsps red wine vinegar
2 medium scallions, sliced thin
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Dissolve 1½ tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in 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.

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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. Place rice in 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.

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