Pete Wells’ Cooking with Dexter Cuban Black Beans

From February 2010 to February 2011 I freelanced for the New York Times. I had the pleasure to recipe test and work with Pete Wells. This recipe, adapted from “Tastes Like Cuba,” by Eduardo Machado and Michael Domitrovich was featured in Wells’ Cooking with Dexter series. This Cuban Black Beans recipe is one of the first I tested and styled and they taste as good as they look, if not better.

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Photo by Tony Cenicola of the New York Times. Food Styling By Molly Rundberg-Villa
  • 1 ½ green peppers, stemmed and seeded
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over to remove any stones
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado or other brown sugar

Preparation

  1. Cut 1 green pepper into 1-inch squares. Smash and peel 4 of the garlic cloves. Put the green pepper and garlic into a large pot with the beans, ham hock, bay leaves and 1 tablespoon salt. Add 2 quarts water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer until the beans are tender, an hour or more.
  2. Meanwhile, make a sofrito. Cut the remaining ½ green pepper into ¼-inch dice. Peel and finely chop the remaining garlic. Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the green pepper and onion and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño (leave out the seeds if you don’t want it too spicy), oregano, cumin, black pepper and 2 teaspoons salt and stir for another minute. Pour in the vinegar and scrape any browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. This is your sofrito.
  3. When the beans are cooked, discard the bay leaf. Remove and set aside the ham hock and let it cool. Transfer 1 cup of beans to small bowl, mash them into a paste with the back of a fork and return to the pot. Add the sofrito, then the sugar. Pull the meat from the ham hock, leaving behind any white sinew or gristle. Chop the ham into ½-inch pieces and return it to the bean pot.
  4. Stir the beans well and bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so, skimming any foam from the top. Taste for salt and serve with white rice.

*this recipe was published in the New York Times Magazine in an article by Pete Wells called Burnt Offerings

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