Meaty, slow-cooked beans make an appearance on Latin and Caribbean plates from Little Havana to Little Haiti and everywhere in between. Some are served with rice, some are stewed with every flavorful cut of meat that fits in the pot, as in Brazilian feijoada. What most versions have in common is the richness and smoky flavor of pork. My simplified version uses bacon and ham hocks for loads of flavor with a minimal amount of fuss. Starting with dried beans takes some advance prep, but it is an easy way to achieve authentic results! Note: this recipe requires advance preparation.
- 14 oz. dried black beans, rinsed, picked over, soaked overnight and drained
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 5 strips center cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and cut in half
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 ham hocks
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sour cream, hot sauce, fresh cilantro and chopped scallions, for serving (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the beans, ginger, bay leaves, ham hocks and enough water to cover by 2 inches.
Turn the heat up to high in order to bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for 2 hours or until the beans are tender. During the cooking time, stir the beans occasionally and use a spoon to skim off any fat or scum that rises to the surface. If the water evaporates before the beans finish cooking, add just enough to keep them mostly covered. By the time the beans are done, the majority of the water should evaporate, creating a thick consistency.
Remove the giner, ham hocks and bay leaves from the pan. Stir the bacon pieces into the beans and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing the sour cream, hot sauce, cilantro and scallions for guests to garnish as they like.