What We’re Cooking This Week: Cuban-Style Frijoles Colorado

The addition of winter squash and potato differentiates frijoles Colorado from most other bean and rice dishes.

Frijoles Colorado Photo by Jim Dixon.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

Moros y cristianos, black beans and white rice cooked together, might be Cuba’s most famous bowl of beans, but islanders across the Caribbean eat a lot of red beans and rice, too. It’s likely that the New Orleans version originated with Haitians who fled to Louisiana after the revolution in the late 1700s. In the more fun facts department, when the beans and rice are cooked together, the dish is usually called congri, short for arroz con gris or “rice with gray,” because of the tint the black beans give the cooking liquid. The same name applies when red beans and rice are cooked in the same pot, even though they’re not gray.

Frijoles Colorado is the Cuban version of red beans, and while they’re typically served with rice, the two are cooked separately. While most recipes call for red kidney beans, I prefer to use either small red beans or pink beans, which are slightly larger but still smaller and, I think, better tasting than kidneys. If you can’t find them, any red bean will work.

The addition of winter squash and potato differentiates frijoles Colorado from most other bean and rice dishes. The potato adds a creamy quality, and the squash provides a subtle sweetness. And most recipes for frijoles Colorado call for lots of meat, including a ham hock to cook with the beans, bacon for the sofrito, and a little more ham just in case you need more meat. But the beans are very good without it.

Cuban-Style Frijoles Colorado

1 pound red beans

2 quarts water

1 teaspoon kosher-style sea salt

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 bay leaf

1 onion, chopped

1 Anaheim chile, chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup crushed tomatoes (or 2 fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped)

1/2 cup dry sherry (fino or amontillado)

2 tablespoons cider or wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine beans, water, salt, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and bay leaf in a large pot, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the beans are very tender, about 2 hours. Or use my no-soak beans in the oven technique, but add the bay leaf.

Make the sofrito by cooking the onion and chiles in the rest of the olive oil over medium heat until they’re very soft, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for a minute, then stir in the tomatoes, sherry, vinegar and oregano. Reduce heat and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the sofrito to the cooked beans and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Stir regularly and add a little water if the beans get too thick or begin to scorch. Taste and add salt as needed; serve with rice.

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