Tonight was one of those nights where I totally appreciate the neighborhood that I live in, and exactly why I haven’t been able to bring myself to leave for 8 years (which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere!). When we got home from the gym, The Neighbor Husband came down bearing a gift. Grilled Bratwurst with sauteed green peppers and melted cheese in a roll. Enough for all of us, even Jamie. Is that not the best ever? And it was absolutely perfect since my slow cooker had been humming away all day, making Cuban Black Beans and Rice, so I could return the favor and send him back with a side dish (including some Cheesy Rice Fritters I made last night) and dessert. Teamwork at its best. And the taste? So good.
As soon as we came home tonight, the house smelled amazing. And it should. The black beans had been in the slow cooker since about noon, and it was all we could do to wait for our portions to cool off before inhaling. Years ago, we used to do potluck lunches at my office. I totally miss them. Everyone would bring something different in, and it was a great way to get new recipes and try out things we might never have tried before.
One of our engineers and I used to exchange recipes all the time (he doesn’t come in nearly as often anymore, and I work largely from home now), and this recipe for Cuban Black Beans was one of the things that he brought to a potluck. As soon as I had the first bite, I asked for the recipe, knowing that The Ex would like it just as much. It’s hard, though, to compete with the memory of recipes from The Ex’s mom and grandmother, so the first time I made it for him, I likely held my breath. He gave it the highest praise, saying it tasted just like his grandmothers’.
Both Nick and Madeline are crazy for black beans, but I don’t make them too often, figuring I won’t intrude on The Ex’s “food territory.” He has his specialties, I have mine. But I happen to like black beans too, and have had a hankering for them lately. I remembered this recipe from the office potluck and went digging through my files over the weekend to find it.
It takes just a few minutes to throw everything into the crock pot, and given the heat and humidity of summertime is nearly upon us, it’s the perfect time to dust off your appliance and get busy. I waited for Nick to take the first bite and asked him how he liked it.
“Is it as good as Daddy’s?”
“No. It’s better.”
“I think we should call Daddy and tell him that.”
Nick, playing the neutrality of Switzerland, wouldn’t go for it. Such a good son. But don’t think I’m not going to tell him myself. I’m pretty proud of that. I will say, however, on the outset, that some of the ingredients are decidedly not traditional to a serving of Cuban Black Beans. I totally get that, but the end result is in the taste, and the odd ingredient here or there somehow magically comes together to make a forkful taste just like it’s supposed to.
You can serve these alongside some yummy bratwurst sandwiches if you’re lucky enough to have good neighbors like us. It’s also pretty delish over a small pile of white rice. I read a suggestion somewhere about putting an egg over the top of the beans. The Ex, I’m sure, wouldn’t approve, but any excuse for a messy egg and I’m there.
Breakfast. Egg white omelet. Total deliciousness. The melted cheese sure doesn’t hurt. Melted cheese is like bacon. And messy eggs. And perhaps chocolate. It makes everything instantly better.
Jack’s Cuban Black Beans
1 pound dried black beans (2 cups), sorted and rinsed
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped (1-1/2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 can (14-1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 4 oz can chopped chiles
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb fat back (I used 1/3 lb)
1 beef bouillion cube
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Skin fat back. Cut off excessive fat and cut into cubes. Fry pepper, onion, celery and fat back until well softened in oil (I sometimes skip this step). Mix everything together in crock pot and cook six hours on high. Add water as needed if it begins to dry out a bit towards the end.
Serve over rice.