Thursday, July 05, 2007

Black Bean and Rice Casserole

1 cup black beans
1 small onion, whole
1 tomato, whole
1 bay leaf
6 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cubed, lean, raw pork (about 1/2 lb)
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced, cooked ham (about 1/4 lb)
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1tsp oregano
1.5 cups rice
1.5tsp salt
1/8tsp hot sauce
1/8tsp black pepper
pinch garlic powder
2tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp dry vermouth, or dry sherry, optional
Parsley sprigs

Wash the beans and discard any that are imperfect. Put them in a 4 quart flameproof casserole with a tight lid and cover with water to a depth of 2 to 3 inches above the beans. Soak overnight.
The next day add water, if necessary, to make the level an inch above the beans. Add the whole onion, whole tomato, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until the beans are tender – 1 or 2 hours. When tender, drain the beans and measure the liquid. There should be about 2.5 cups, if not add water to make that amount. Return beans and 2.5 cups liquid to the casserole. Discard the remainder of the onion, tomato and bay leaf.
While the beans are simmering, heat 2 tbsp of the oil, in a heave 10 inch frying pan till hot but not smoking. Add the pork and cook, stirring till the pieces are brown. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 15 min.
Add 2 tbsp of the oil, increase the heat till hot but not smoking, and stir in the chopped onion, ham, green pepper, minced garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring, until the onion is pale, yellow and soft.
Adjust the heat to low. Add the rice, salt, hot sauce, and pepper. Let cook gently, uncovered, about 10 min, stirring often.
Preheat the oven to 325f
Add the rice mixture to the cooked beans and liquid. Bring to a boil, cover casserole, and transfer to the oven. Bake about 20 min, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
Meantime heat the garlic powder in the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a small frying pan. Heat until hot, but not smoking. Add to the cooked beans and rice. Add the lemon juice and vermouth. Mix gently with 2 forks. If the mixture seems dry, stir in additional hot oil. Taste for seasoning, add more if desired. Garnish with the parsley sprigs.

I made this with some greens cooked with a small amount of salt pork for flavor. A very traditional southern way to cook them, and from the same cookbook.

These were from the funniest cookbook. It is called Jane Nickerson’s Florida Cookbook. It’s excellent. The book breaks down Florida cooking into it’s three basic components, namely, Cuban cooking (beans and rice), Down south cooking (fried chicken in Milk gravy), and Jewish cooking (noodle kugal). Anyone who knows Florida, knows how accurate this is. I really like the look of this cookbook, and I love this beans and rice recipe.

The big thing that I learned from this meal, is what Salt pork is. I knew I hadn’t seen it in the store, so I had to look it up to get an idea of what to use in it’s place. Salt pork is a cut of meat that comes from the belly of the pig, and is salt cured like bacon. It is very similar to bacon, but much much fattier (if you can imagine that). The same piece of meat, when it is not salt cured, is called “fat back”. Good stuff to know. I decided that in this case, I would use bacon as a substitute, because I felt that the salt curing was probably important to the flavor. Also, I needed bacon for something else I was making anyway. We actually have fat back in the local supermarket, or at least a close approximation of it, though it is called something else.

These recipes were really tasty, and together they made a totally well balanced meal. I love black beans, and I think this will probably be my way of making them from now on.

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