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Cuban Black Beans and Rice recipe - Moros y Cristianos

Cuban moros y cristianos

No other dish represents Cuban cuisine better than Moros y Cristianos.  Seasoned black beans served with fluffy white rice. Some Cubans serve rice topped with beans, others mix them. I myself top the rice with beans, and let my guests decide for themselves!

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes

  • Cook Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

This recipe calls for the use of dried black beans. If you're short on time, you can use the quick version for canned beans at the page bottom. But there's nothing quite like the depth of flavor you get from traditional Moros y Cristianos. Or the aroma of sofrito and seasoned beans simmering, as it fills your home. A wonderful mingling of scents that I personally call "Cuban air freshener."


Rice Ingredients:


1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic (optional)


Sofrito Ingredients:


20 cherry tomatoes (or four Roma tomatoes), chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 medium onions, peeled 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


Instructions on Soaking Your Beans before Cooking:


There are two common ways to soak beans before cooking them. The most traditional method of soaking is the overnight method. Add the black beans to a large pot, pour in enough cold water so that the beans are covered by at least one inch of water. Allow the beans soak overnight. Before cooking, drain the water the beans were soaked in, 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 the time to remove your ham hocks from the refrigerator, and allow them to come to room temperature.


Instructions on How to Make 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.


Instructions on How to 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 under water 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.


Instructions on How to Cook the Rice:


This recipe calls for a cup of 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 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.


Serving Tips:


Some cooks or restaurants will mix the cooked black beans with rice before serving them. Others will simply spoon the black beans on top of the rice or place them side by side, so people can mix them together themselves.


There's no wrong way to serve it. But typically for every cup of cooked white rice, you would serve it with a half or full cup of cooked black beans. I love black beans, so my plate is usually 50% beans and 50% rice, mixed together.


Cooking Tips and Other Notes:


1. Always sort and rinse your beans before even adding them to a pot. Using a colander, sift through the beans and remove any tiny pebbles, gritty pieces of field dirt, and beans that are either withered, discolored, or broken. Once you carefully sift through the beans and remove anything that doesn't belong, rinse them well to make sure there's no field dust left on them.


2. There's always a big debate over whether it's better to soak beans overnight, or quick-soak them before cooking. There's a great article by the managing culinary director of Serious Eats on how cooked black beans absorb more flavor, are darker in color, and have better texture when they aren't soaked overnight. I tend to agree, and only prep my black beans with the quick-soak method.


3. You can find smoked ham hocks and shanks in the refrigerated butcher section of most large supermarkets. The hock is basically the pig's "ankle" area, whereas the shank is the "calf" of the leg. You'll get noticeably more meat from ham shanks than you will hocks.


4. If you can't find smoked ham hocks/shanks/tails, you can also cook with a large cube of salt pork. It's also sold pre-packaged in grocery stores, and will look like a thick square of bacon. Sliced Spanish chorizo can also be used.


5. I've had beans cook tender in two hours. Other times, in four hours. Cook with the heat too low, and it can take a long time for the beans and water to turn into a thick gravy with tender beans. Cook with the heat on medium or higher, and you may have to keep adding water. Otherwise you'll have beans soft on the outside, but a bit too firm inside.


6. The first hour or two of simmering, you will rarely need to stir the beans, if at all. But pay more attention as the water reduces, and the black "gravy" the beans are in starts to thicken. It will require more stirring, to keep from burning.


7. Keep in mind that when the beans finish cooking, they won't look like the cooked beans you buy in a can. There will be plenty of whole beans, but they will be in a thick, dark sauce. Just try to picture creamy, thick refried beans, but with a bunch of whole beans still part of the mix.


8. You may not need to add salt to the beans as they cook, depending on how much flavor the smoked or cured ham adds.


8. Depending on the type of long-grain rice you plan on cooking with, you may want to rinse it several times before cooking. This can help remove any excess starch from the surface of the rice (if any), and makes for less sticky/gluey cooked rice.


Quick and Easy Beans:


If you're in a hurry, you can used canned black beans to make Moros y Cristianos. Simply sautee onion and garlic in olive oil, add the seasonings, and then the beans. Raise heat to high until the mixture comes to a boil, then simmer. You can also use the back of a mixing spoon to smash some of the beans against the bottom or sides of a pot or saucepan. This will release some of the starch needed to create a thick, creamy sauce. Then simmer everything until the flavors come together, about 15-20 minutes.


But again, if you're going to make Cuba's signature dish, better to do it the old fashioned way. I cook a huge batch of black beans at least once a week, and the entire process (prepping, sofrito, the beans) takes hours. But the depth of the flavor in the finished beans makes it worth the effort. 

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