Beans and rice—a humble comfort food—sounds like a simple proposition, but more often than not, the dish ends up soggy, mushy, and completely bland, and there's not much comforting about it. We found that we couldn't just throw beans and rice into a pot and expect them to cook into a satisfying, toothsome mix, so we had to make some recipe refinements.
This recipe for Cuban-style beans and rice employs a couple techniques that you learned about earlier in this lesson. First, the beans are brined. After brining, they're simmered—not boiled, which would cause them to blow out—on the stovetop with aromatic vegetables until the beans are just tender. Long-grain rice is rinsed and then cooked using a variation on the pilaf technique (the rice here is stirred into sautéed aromatic vegetables but is not truly toasted as it would be for a proper pilaf). Finally, the precooked beans are simmered with the rice in a low oven—not on the stovetop—where the steady, gentle heat keeps the pot's contents from cooking too vigorously (and precludes the need for constant burner adjustments). The result is perfectly tender beans and fluffy rice.
Lean salt pork, aromatic vegetables (onion, green bell pepper, and garlic—known as sofrito in Cuban and Latin American cooking), and a good dose of ground cumin provide the flavor backbone for our Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice. It's a great accompaniment to just about any kind of meat, poultry, or fish preparation, or it can be served as a main course along with a simple salad.
Total Cooking Time: 600
Preparation Time: 30
Active Cooking Time: 90
Make Ahead: Serve immediately
Yield: 6 to 8 servings