Friday, April 15, 2011

Black Beans for a Crowd

I'm helping cook for a fund-raiser Saturday night. Our menu is Tex-Mex. Among other things, I volunteered to make the black beans.  I serve black beans as a side all the time -- half a cup of beans a few times a week helps cancel out some of the cholesterol from all the pork fat and cheese that gets consumed around here. Typically, I open a can of Bush’s Black Beans and doctor then up a bit with some onion, jalapeno, garlic, cumin and hot sauce. But since we are feeding a big crowd and dried beans are so cheap, I decided to go that route.
I'd been meaning to go check out the selection of Hispanic products at the Food Lion. I figured now was the time. Major score: 4 pound bags of Goya black beans for $4.19 each (the same item was $6.45 at Lowes) and big containers of cumin and chili powder, two for $4. I also picked up an interesting-looking spice blend and can't wait to go back with the Tacos cookbook I'm supposed to be cooking out of this month and check out their dried pepper selection.

I did a little research in trying to come up with the right quantity of dried beans to cook. My estimate is that one pound of black beans will make eight half-cup servings so each of my 4 pound bags will make 30+ servings. Three batches should give me the 100 servings I need.
My original plan had been to make the black beans in batches in my slow-cooker, but once I soaked the first batch of beans, it was clear that the most I’d be able to fit in the slow-cooker at one time would be closer to two pounds. I could probably cook 6 pounds at a time in the pot I’m using, but the recipe is not so labor-intensive that two batches would be a lot less work than three. And, if one of the batches turns out a little spicy, it won’t be a problem once I mix them all together.

Black Beans for a Crowd
  • 4 pound bag of dried black beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups of onion, small dice
  • 4 tablespoons of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 12 cups of water
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 6 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons Cholula hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoon black pepper
  1. Put the black beans in a colander. Rinse them thoroughly and pick through them for any undesirable bits. Pour the beans into a large stock pot and cover them with 3-4 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for an hour. An alternative would be to skip the boiling and just soak the beans overnight, but that’s not feasible it you are making 3 batches.
  2. While the beans soak, prep the veggies then heat the olive oil in a heavy pan. Add the onion and sauté until it is soft and golden then add garlic and jalapeno and continue to sauté 3-4 minutes longer. Set aside until the beans have finished soaking.
  3. After an hour, drain the beans in the colander, and then add them back to the pot with 12 cups of water.
  4. Dump the sautéed onion mixture in, along with the bouillon cubes, cumin, coriander, hot sauce and pepper.
  5. Bring to a simmer and then cover and reduce the heat so that a low simmer is maintained. Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring and tasting occasionally, or until the desired consistency is reached. If the beans are going into a salsa, you want a firmer bean. If serving them for a main course over rice, I like mine creamier and mushier. For a side dish, I shoot for something in the middle. If you soak the beans overnight instead of the quickie technique I used, the cooking time will be less.
  6. Season the beans to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.
Yield: 30+ servings
Prep time: 1 1/2 hours (including soaking time)
Cook time: 2-3 hours

These beans are perfect to serve as a side dish, alone or with rice. They can also be used as a taco filling. If you want to use the beans as a vegetarian alternative, use water or vegetable stock rather than chicken broth. You will likely need to increase the salt though since much of the salt in my recipe comes from the broth.

Over the past two days, I've cooked 12 pounds of black beans and 15 pounds to beef taco filling! I've tasted enough that I'm pretty tired of black beans at this point, but I'm still hoping that there is enough leftover that I can make a version of the black beans topped with chorizo that was posted recently on one of the blogs (sorry! I can't find the post!) I follow. Tuesday night dinner can't get much easier than that.


Katerina said...

This would definitely please a crowd! I wish I had a bowl!

Lynn said...

I have leftovers! There are a couple of recipes I've thought about making lately that will put them to use -- black bean enchiladas, black beans and polenta (more likely grits!), spicy black bean dip.