My “Little Pressure Cooker that Could” finally gave up on me yesterday. The tough part was that she called it quits while cooking black beans at a new client’s. There I was on my first cook date for them, trying to impress with some staple menu items and she decides to die minutes into cooking dry beans from scratch. There was no way I could finish the beans on the stove top in the amount of time I had left. On top of it all, I had just learned that the man of the house was Cuban. No pressure! (pun intended) Had I known that, I might have waited to put Cuban mojo pork and black beans on the menu until a couple more cook dates in. I didn’t really have any other option other than to leave the pressure cooker hissing out the sides for the whole 90 minutes and hope that there was still enough pressure to cook the beans through. In the end, they ended up being good. (In hind sight, a new gasket could be all she needs to keep on cooking)
As confident as I am, it’s always just a little bit intimidating to prepare dishes that people will ultimately compare to the authentic ones they’ve enjoyed throughout their lives. However, when you do prepare these types of dishes and the people say it’s great, it makes it even more rewarding in the end. The Cuban meal was the first one my new clients ate and I received great feedback so despite a little technical malfunction, I may have some great new long-term clients. They even posted a nice picture of their meal on Instagram and Facebook. Love it when they do that!
I absolutely love black beans and I think my recipe is pretty darn good and EASY. It helps that my in laws are Cuban as well. I’ve tried many and seen the recipe of my father in law’s mother who was a very good cook. Like most of my recipes, there are tweaks here and there that may sway from your 100% authentic recipe. But that’s what makes it mine. You can take a look, make some changes (or not) and make it yours.
Another thing I love about these is, with a few simple changes, you can make them healthier, vegetarian, vegan, or spicier. Also, you don’t need a pressure cooker, if you have a full day to cook the beans. I noted the ways below the recipe. Let me know if you try them out!
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Cuban Black Beans
Yield: about 2 quarts
2 Bell Peppers (any color, I like red), seeded, deveined, and roughly chopped
1 Yellow Onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 Jalapenos, seeded, deveined, and roughly chopped
7 Garlic Cloves (or however many you like. I like odd numbers)
3 T Cumin
1 T Chili Powder
1 t Paprika
1 Qt Beef Stock
2 C Black Beans
1 Pork Shank (1 ½ – 2 lb) (¼ C lard if pork shanks are unavailable)
Salt to taste
Combine first 8 ingredients in a blender and puree until a loose salsa consistency is achieved.
Combine the vegetable mix, black beans, and pork shank in a pressure cooker.
Cook for about 90 minutes. Pressure cookers and timing will vary.
Season with salt to taste.
See!? Easy! Enjoy!
Notes: You can chop the vegetables if you do not have a blender. You may want to add more stock at the end to make them to your liking. In my experience with Cuban families and restaurants, they vary from very liquid to a little thicker. Personally, I like them a bit thicker just so they don’t run all over when plated, but it’s all preference.
Vegetarian/Vegan: Replace the beef stock with vegetable stock or water and replace the pork shank with ¼ C vegetable oil.
Healthier: Replace the pork shank or lard with 3 T vegetable oil.
Spicy: Leave veins and seeds in and add a more jalapenos depending on how spicy you like it.
No Pressure Cooker: I actually don’t have an exact time here. You really just need to simmer them all day long until they are cooked through and at your desired consistency. Covered is best and you may need to add more liquid as it reduces throughout the simmering. Soaking the beans overnight beforehand will speed up the process a bit.