I love frijoles negros don’t get me wrong, but they are a staple in all Cuban restaurants. Every day you go in the have frijoles negros or moros con cristianos.
So my heart skips a beat whenever I walk into a Cuban restaurant and find one of two things on the daily specials: Congrí Oriental or Potaje de Colorados. We’ll concentrate on the latter otherwise known as Red Beans.
I prefer the small Red Beans to the Kidney beans only because of size, nothing else. And oh yes, because due to the size I get to call them frijoles colorados instead of habichuelas and get away with it! 😉
One of my favorite kitchen memories is eating the chorizo slices out of the sofrito Mami was cooking. Nothing better than sauteed chorizo español in olive oil…. Yummmmm!
Living in New England poses certain challenges when making frijoles colorados. The first is that I cannot find a hueso de jamón. At home in PR it was very easy, Papi owned a panadería and he would bring the bone from there. See unlike in Miami, the panaderías in Puerto Rico slice with a knife the jamón and the pernil off the bone for the sandwich cubano and the medianoche. When I first arrived in Miami, the fact that my jamón was machine-sliced and did not come from one of those jamones con hueso hanging from the ceiling was very dismaying. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Let me show you:
Now that’s what jamones look like! So here, I have to buy that “smoked” ham with – if you are lucky – a tiny bone in the middle making sure it is not honey or maple or hickory flavored. That is what I use for jamón de cocinar. As for the bone, it depends. If I find ham hocks, then I’ll use one per can. If I don’t find them I have to make do without them. Therefore this is the dire straits frijoles colorados made with what I can find in New England.
Yes, you read right: can. This is easy frijoles remember?
The second challenge that I have not been able to overcome is calabaza. Hard as I try, none of this squashes are the same. I’ve tried Acorn squash (too hard) and Butternut squash (too soft). Basically, I’ve given up on the calabaza factor. *sigh*
So what is a Cuban girl to do when she craves frijoles colorados????? Improvise of course! So here is my receta for quick and easy dire straits frijoles colorados that somewhat resemble real Cuban Red Beans. Here is what you will need:
- one can Goya Small Red Beans
- one small Yellow onion
- 1/4 green bell pepper (depends on size)
- 1 bay leave
- 4 cloves of garlic
- half and Idaho potato dice to preference
- half a small can of Hunts/Goya tomato sauce
- cubed ham
- sliced/ground chorizo español (as previously mentioned I use Portuguese Linguica which is a VERY good substitute)
- Adobo sin pimienta
- Olive oil
Ah yes, there is that no tomato again. Here it is for a different reason. Where I live, produce goes by seasons. So in Winter tomatoes are very expensive and I don’t usually have them at home when the craving hits. I use tomato sauce instead.
Start by chopping the onion and the green pepper, and mince the garlic. Your ratio of onions to peppers should look something like this:
Those are flan (or custard) pyrex which I believe measure close to a cup. Basically you need a ratio of 4:1 of chopped onion and chopped red green peppers. I smash the garlic first (some people call it “bruising” – Hi Vivi!) and then mince it. Once you have these ready, set aside.
Next cube about a quarter of the ham steak and have the same amount of ground Linguica. If you have access to chorizo español use two of the small ones sliced into quarter inch slices.
Heat over medium heat LESS than a tablespoon of EVO (extra virgin olive oil). Add the ham and the chorizo/linguica stirring frequently. As soon as the ham se dore and the chorizo/linguica starts oozing a bit of fat, then add in the following order the onion, peppers and garlic. Stir and add some adobo and stir again. Sofreir for about 3-5 minutes being careful that neither the onion nor the garlic gets burnt. Add the tomato sauce, the bay leave and the potato.
Open the can of beans and pour into sofrito (including the water that comes with it). Fill the empty can halfway with water, and with a spoon still to make sure there is nothing left in the can. Pour into the cazuela too. Keep it over medium heat and stirring occasionally until it starts to soft boil.
Once it starts bubbling, turn down the heat to simmer. Stir once more and cover with aluminum foil and the lid so it creates a tight seal (I swear we Cubans must keep the aluminum foil paper business going singlehandedly!).
Let simmer for about 20 minutes and serve! (Hint: it goes over white rice and goes very well with pollo grillé!). Now because there is no calabaza and I used canned small red beans, the color will be a bit redder than usual. Don’t freak, this is normal; they still taste good and that is what matters.