When Catherine on our team spent the entire month of December in Miami, she became obsessed with frijoles colorados – a hearty bean stew from Cuba. Recipes vary, but the fundamentals are the same: red beans flavored with a few different smoky meats and sazón – the Latin American spice mixture, combined with veggies like squash and potatoes. You can play with the different levels of meat or veggies to best fit what you're craving.
Which beans to use? Sangre de Toro or other Central American red bean.
- 1 lb Sangre de Toro beans, uncooked
- 1 smoked ham hock
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 slices bacon, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- ½ green bell pepper, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tbsp tomato sauce
- 2 oz dry cooking wine
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 2-½ tsp sazón, ideally without artificial flavors, MSG, or salt, such as Loisa or Burlap & Barrel (or you can try making your own)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 link Spanish chorizo, sliced
- 1 small butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed
- 2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- Long-grain white rice, for serving
Cook beans with the ham hock: In a large Dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed pot), combine dried beans, smoked ham hock, 1-½ tsp salt, and a good grind of pepper. Add enough water to cover beans by about 1-½ inches. Simmer for 1 hour, then remove ham hock. Cut the meat from the bone and set aside to add back in later.
Prepare the seasoning: Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium high heat and add bacon. Pan fry for 5 minutes. Add onion and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, sazón, and bay leaves. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer, then add the mixture to the beans in the Dutch oven and stir to incorporate. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until beans are nearly tender, 30-60 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep the beans submerged.
Finish and serve: Add chorizo, ham hock meat, squash, and potatoes to the Dutch oven and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until veggies have softened, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Enjoy with white rice.