Cuban-Inspired Pork & Black Bean Stew

Before I get into this recipe, just a quick gratitude on my mind - for the people who get us. Who understand our sensibilities, truly empathize with our quirks, and draw lines in the same places in the sand we would without even having to ask. Kindred spirits who enrich our lives and fill our emotional tanks so we have energy and emotion left for the people and things that require more of us.

They are a blessing beyond words.


Moving right along...

I think one of the best ways to honor our heritage is through food. As the big monsters are one quarter Cuban, I like to include those flavors in our rotation as well.

Like many stews, this is a good one to make ahead and freeze for those busy weeknights.

If you're averse to pig, you can make this with slightly larger chunks of chicken. *BWAAAAAAK!!!*

Cuban Inspired Pork & Black Bean Stew
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 90 minutes total stovetop, 6 to 8 hours in slow cooker

Very good arguments are made for and against searing the meat (Step 1) beforehand. I think the best argument for it is the resulting depth of flavor. The best argument against? Time saved. You can do what works best for you and your family on a given day and have a delicious result either way.

- 2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes and seasoned with 1 teaspoon kosher salt + 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 an onion, cut into 1/4-inch wide pieces
- 1/2 a red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/4" thick slices
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 tomato, cut into 6 pieces (or 1/3 cup canned tomatoes)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- 15 ounces can of unsalted black beans, drained
- another 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1.5 Tablespoons white vinegar
- 1.5 cups water

STOVETOP INSTRUCTIONS

1) In a large pot or Dutch oven (4 to 5 quarts), preheat the olive oil over high heat then brown the pork shoulder pieces in a single layer on two sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per side until they form a golden brown sear.

2) Add in the onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato, oregano, cumin and bay leaves, and stir to evenly distribute all the ingredients and to saute the aromatics (onions, peppers, garlic) until the onions begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.

3) Turn the heat down to medium high, add the black beans, additional kosher salt, vinegar and water, stir to evenly distribute all the ingredients, and let the stew come up to a boil for about 2 minutes.

4) Turn the heat down to medium low and keep it at an active simmer (you can see and hear bubbles, but they're not splattering), covered, for another 45 minutes. Give the stew a stir every 15 minutes or so. If you can scrape stuff off the bottom of your pot, the heat's too high, and you should adjust down a little bit.

5) Uncover the stew, give it a stir, and taste to see if seasoning needs adjustment. Adjust if needed and simmer another 5 to 7 minutes uncovered.

Enjoy with steamed rice, baked or boiled potatoes, some crusty bread...

SLOW COOKER INSTRUCTIONS

Follow steps 1 and 2 above, then pour your meat, veg and spice mixture into the slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients, decreasing the water to 1+1/4 cups to offset the condensation from the slow cooker lid.

Set slow cooker to low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 6 hours.

Goes Great With: A Better Pickled JalapeñoSimple Tomato Cucumber Salad with Lemon Dressing, Simple Yellow Jasmine Rice & PeasSurprise Lemon Caesar Salad

Repurposing Leftovers: Makes delicious and easy tacos wrapped in tortillas, sprinkled with a little chopped fresh cilantro and onions, and drizzled (or drenched, if you're like us) with your favorite hot sauce.

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