The Best Black Beans

April 17, 2011

Every cookbook gives you a list of the foods you should always keep on hand. By which they usually mean things like bottles of olive oil and vinegar.

But my recipe for good living involves a tiny bit more work.  Yes, I always have bacon, eggs, onions and butter in the house, along with dried pasta.  And I've always got lemons, anchovies, miso, soy sauce, Parmesan cheese and chiles on hand too. But my more serious staples mean that a meal is never more than minutes away. They include:

Homemade chicken stock: it is always in my freezer, ready to turn into soup, sauce or risotto, and to improve every vegetable it comes in contact with.

Cooked rice: you can't make fried rice without it.

A couple of boiled potatoes: you never know when you'll decide you have to have some hash browns.

Homemade tomato sauce: keep it in the freezer as a reminder that summer will return.

A pot of black beans: the most satisfying last-minute meal I know.  Eat it with rice, roll it into a tortilla, or top it with a fried egg. Utterly restorative. 

Wonderful Black Beans

Pick through 2 cups of black beans and remove any stones or ugly beans.  Soak them overnight. Drain them in the morning, add 6 cups of water, one chopped onion, a sprig of epazote and a few tablespoons of lard (Mangalitza if you can get it) or bacon drippings. Bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat down and simmer for a couple of hours until the beans are tender.  Remove the epazote, stir in a teaspoon of salt, a very healthy glug of cream sherry, a few splashes of soy sauce and another splash of balsamic vinegar.  Taste for seasoning.  These will keep in the refrigerator for a week – but mine never last that long.









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  • Lindsey Hunt says:

    There’s nothing like the smell of epazote filling my kitchen – time to go home and put some on the stove!

  • Regine Ibold says:

    I’ve been making moros y christianos ever since my husband and I first ate them at the Columbia Restaurant in Sarasota, Fla. almost fifty years ago. It’s become a family signature dish. No other version never measured up…..until your “wonderful black beans” above. Fabulous. I’ve made them three times Had to go to a little Mexican restaurant here in Lancaster, Pa. for a sprig of epazote!

  • Regine Ibold says:

    Dear Ruth –
    Besides your make-ahead Indian chicken could you post some other easy “patio picnic” sides (Aunt Birdie’s salad is a standard) that I could make for 8 in a “strange” kitchen? The vindaloo paste and epazote for black beans are already in my travel kitchen box. 🙂