My husband introduced beans and rice to me on my first trip to Miami in 2001. Pollo Tropical was probably the first place I ate them and I was in love. Of course there are a million ways to prepare black beans and rice, but the greatest recipes start with dried beans, not the canned. Hey, I’m not knocking canned. I have four in my pantry right now because 99% of the time I use canned because I haven’t mastered cooking from dried yet, and I frequently decide at the last minute to cook beans with dinner.
A few months ago when I was still in my organic co-op (I dropped out due to convenience and time issues), I bought a pound of dried beans. They sat in my pantry until a few days ago when I decided it was time to try cooking beans from scratch again. Last week we had a honeybaked ham because we had family in town (fantastic thing to have around when you have a full house), so I looked up “black beans, ham bone” on Google. I found this recipe from The Kitchn for black bean soup and some of the commenters said they prepared the recipe in a slow cooker. Music to my ears! Here are my modifications:
- I started with a sofrito – I diced onion and garlic and sauteed in a skillet and added to the beans in the crockpot
- I put the entire ham bone in the crockpot, cranked up to high and cooked on high for 5 hours
- Before I left to pickup the kids, I took out the bone and all the ham pieces. I chopped up any big pieces of ham left on the bone and threw everything else away (like my crockpot chickens, I was a little freaked out by the bones)
- I put the ham back in and turned down to warm so the beans wouldn’t’ get mushy.
- Oregano and other spices would have been good, if I’d remembered. Maybe next time.
- I didn’t add any salt – the ham was salty enough
The result? The beans had a delicious smoky flavor and were very tender! I thought they were extremely good, and I thought this was a much better use for a ham bone than ham bone soup. Chicken stock instead of water would probably taste good too, but I didn’t have any thawed. I stopped the cooking when the beans were still watery, NOT thick like the recipe says (and thus becomes a soup). If you want soup the beans will have to cook longer (if using the crockpot method). We used a slotted spoon to scoop out the beans and eat as a side. I’m especially happy that I [may] have found a good way to cook beans that is more economical than buying cans! And, when paired with special fried cheese from Miami, all is right in our world.