Moros y Cristianos (Cuban Black Beans and Rice)
1 cup Riceland Extra Long Grain Rice
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic (optional)
20 cherry tomatoes (or four Roma tomatoes), chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
8 to 10 garlic cloves, diced or minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
For the Beans:
1 pound dried black beans
1 pound smoked ham hocks (or ham shanks)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Step 1. Soak the Beans
There are two common ways to soak beans before cooking them. The most traditional method is to soak the beans overnight. Add the black beans to a large pot, and be sure they are covered by at least an inch of cold water. Soak overnight. Before cooking, drain the water from the beans and replace with fresh water.
Then there's the quick-soak method. Add the dry beans to a large pot, add cold water until there's at least an inch of water above the beans. Cover the pot, then cook on high heat until the water comes to a boil. Allow it to boil for one minute, then turn off the heat, and let stand (still covered) for one hour. But unlike overnight soaking, you won't discard the water in the pot to add new water before cooking.
I always quick-soak black beans. The reasons why are given down at the bottom of this page. So if you quick-soak, get started on your sofrito as your beans take an hour to soak before cooking. It's also time to remove your ham hocks from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.
Step 2. Make the Sofrito
Sofrito is the sauce used as a base for Moros y Cristianos, as well as many other Cuban meals. You have an hour to wait for your beans to soak, so take that time to chop your cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and garlic.
Add the olive oil to a nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the chopped ingredients, then the spices. Sautee until the bell peppers and onions in particular are softened (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low, and allow the sofrito to simmer for a while, so the flavors can merge better (10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally). Although you may get the best results by sautéing the onions and bell peppers first, then the garlic (20-60 seconds until slightly golden), then add the seasonings and chopped tomatoes. You should be left with about a quart of a thick, chunky sauce. Remove from heat and set aside.
Step 3. Cook the Beans
Make sure that there's still at least an inch of water above the black beans. Place the pot over high heat, then stir in the sofrito. Add the ham hocks, try to keep them as submerged as possible (although parts of the ham hocks will probably stick out of the water). Add the bay leaves. Allow the mixture to come to a boil for one minute, then reduce heat to low (or just between medium low and medium). Allow it to simmer covered for an hour, just barely bubbling.
After an hour and a half, remove the ham hocks from the pot and set aside. Remove the bay leaves. As the beans are still simmering, return the lid to the pot. Remove the meaty part of the ham from the bones and pork fat. If you like, you can shred the pork with two forks, then return it to the pot. Cook for another 30-60 minutes, until the beans are tender, and the beans are in a thick "gravy" (it shouldn't be watery). Remove pot from heat.
Step 4. Cook the Rice
This recipe calls for a cup of Riceland Extra Long Grain Rice and two cups of water, but you can also add a half cup more of rice and water if cooking for more than one person that day.
To give the rice a nice hint of garlic, there's a great tip from Miami Cuban chef Lourdes Castro that I always use. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Then add a smashed garlic clove (I use two), and cook until the garlic starts to turn golden brown. Remove the garlic and discard.
Add water and salt, and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice until it comes to a boil again. Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid, then simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is tender and no water is visible. Remove pan from the heat, and allow it to stand covered for 5-10 minutes to finish steaming. Remove lid and fluff the rice with a fork. For each person dining, simply add the black bean mix over the rice, or mix together. Serves 8.