Food & Whine

by Mr. Verbose

There was a Sunday some years back when I agreed to cook a dinner for my housemates. We decided upon chicken and after we passed around the hat (Phil’s hat, I think) to fund the provisioning of our meal, I set off for the local supermarket. In my absence, these same housemates began to experience a mounting sense of anticipation for the delectable chicken dinner to come.

Imagine, then, their surprise when I returned from my shopping safari with an inordinate amount of kidney beans, rice and other ingredients.

“There’s no meat here,” said Patrick, staring to the bottom of the empty sack.

“Oh,” I said, “When I got to the store, my inspiration changed. I’ve decided to do a simple variation on a Cuban theme.”

Well, since that day, my “Simple variation on a Cuban Theme” has become something of a running joke. Now, whenever I cook a meal for Patrick, Gary and others, the endeavor is invariably characterized as a “Simple variation on a [fill in the blank] theme.”

Fortunately, the rice and beans of some years gone remains a classic gustatory experience that may be successfully replicated by anyone with half my vocabulary.

Black Beans & Rice

For the Beans:

1 lb. black beans (soak in cold water 2 hrs.)
1 or 2 ham shanks, cut in half
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Bay leaf
Dry sherry to taste (optional)
1 chili pepper (optional

For the Rice:

1½ cups long grain rice
1 tbsp oil
3/4 tsp. turmeric
3 cups water or chicken stock


Place beans and ham shanks into pot with 1″ water to cover. Bring pot to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Skim scum as it rises to the top. When no more scum rises, add remaining ingredients and cook until beans are tender (1½ to 2 hours). Remove shanks and, when cool enough to handle, remove meat from bone and cut up; then return to pot. During the last half-hour, start the rice.

Heat oil in pot and add rice. Fry, stirring constantly until rice is translucent. Add water or stock and bring to a boil. Stir in turmeric and cover. Let rice cook on lowest possible heat for 20 minutes. Then, turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes more. DO NOT remove the lid during this time.

To serve, add salt and pepper to taste, serve beans over rice. For a larger, more sumptuous repast, serve fried plantains, a salad and, of course, plenty of beer.